MANILA, Philippines -- James Yap played in a PBA game for the first time since 2021 on Sunday, delivering a performance that he dedicated to his constituents in San Juan City.
The two-time league Most Valuable Player played 14 minutes for the Rain or Shine Elasto Painters in their 105-87 loss to the Meralco Bolts at the PhilSports Arena, in what was their first game of the 2022-23 PBA Governors' Cup.
It was the first time that Yap had played since the 2021 Philippine Cup, and he wasted no time reminding PBA fans of what he is capable of. He scored 12 of his 14 points in a blistering second quarter, nailing a three-pointer at the buzzer that forced a 54-all tie at the half.
He scored just two points the rest of the way, however, as Meralco shut down the ROS offense. Still, it was an efficient night for Yap, who made five of his eight field goals and all three of his free throws.
"I'm happy na kahit papano nakapag perform tayo ng maayos. 'Yun nga lang yung result 'di maganda dahil talo kami, pero I'm sure ba-bounce back kami," he told reporters after the game.
Watching the game at courtside were Yap's colleagues in the San Juan city council, including Mayor Francis Zamora. Yap expressed his gratitude for their presence, while also highlighting the support he has received from the people of San Juan.
Yap garnered 21,427 votes in the 2022 elections to earn a seat in San Juan's city council, where he was joined with former professional players Paul Artadi, Don Allado, and Ervic Vijandre.
"[I'm] so happy sa mga sumusuporta, naniniwala. Maraming naghihintay na mga constituents ko sa San Juan," he said. "Naghihintay sila na mapanood ako uli. Para sa kanila 'to. Although hindi lang maganda ang result, pero babawi tayo."
Yap, 40, believes that he can juggle his responsibilities as a public servant while still playing at a high level for Rain or Shine. The seven-time PBA champion had signed a one-conference deal with the Elasto Painters ahead of the Governors' Cup, even with the franchise offering him a one-year extension.
According to the All-Star guard, he told ROS management that he preferred the one-conference contract.
"Kailangan ko i-balance 'yung public service ko sa basketball," he explained. "Kasi mamaya, 'di ko magampanan 'yung trabaho ko asa a councilor sa San Juan. So kailangan, i-balance ko muna."
"So far, okay naman," Yap said. "Nakaka-attend tayo ng sessions, nakakapunta tayo sa mga barangay kung may event."
It helps that Rain or Shine's practices run for just three hours, from 9:00 a.m. to 12 noon. Yap also had Monday off, allowing him to attend the city's flag-raising ceremony.
"After that [practice], may time ka na sa trabaho," he said. "One conference muna, then tingnan natin. So far, okay naman. Nama-manage naman ng maayos."
Also working in Yap's favor is that his own coach, Yeng Guiao, has plenty of experience when it comes to balancing political and basketball careers. Guiao previously served as vice-governor of Pampanga and was a congressman from 2013 to 2016 while still coaching in the PBA.
Guiao said that he and Yap have had some "small talk" regarding his duties as a councilor.
"Minsan, nagta-tanungan kami dahil naging legislator din ako sa probinsya. Tinatanong ko sila kailan session niyo, paano kayo mag-session? Nagtatanong din siya sa akin, mga committee assignments niya," said Guiao. "But it's small talk. Hindi naman nothing serious. Small talk lang."
PBA Season 47 games can be streamed live and on-demand on iWantTFC with a Premium subscription, available worldwide except PH and US.