MANILA, Philippines -- NLEX head coach Yeng Guiao said their new import, Cameron Clark, is slowly but surely finding his form as the team progresses in the 2021 PBA Governors' Cup.
The Road Warriors brought in Clark in the quarterfinals as a replacement for the prolific KJ McDaniels, who left the team to be with his family as his girlfriend is about to give birth. Clark's debut came in a loss, as he had 25 points and 16 rebounds in a 93-79 setback to the Alaska Aces.
Fortunately for NLEX, they were armed with a twice-to-beat advantage as they had placed second at the end of the elimination round. The Road Warriors made the most of their second chance, routing Alaska, 96-80, in the knockout game to punch their ticket to the semifinals.
"They stretched us to the limit," Guiao said of the Aces. "Parang we cashed in on our incentive. Kung wala 'yung incentive talaga, wala na kami, delikado talaga."
Guiao acknowledged that Clark had to do plenty of adjusting in his debut, after playing in Germany's Bundelisga ahead of his PBA stint.
"Masyadong malaki lang 'yung adjustment playing in Europe, and then dumating siya rito, we had a few days to practice," said Guiao.
Clark was "a lot more comfortable" in their do-or-die game against the Aces, the coach noted. Their new import made 10-of-25 shots for 24 points, along with eight rebounds, two assists, and two steals.
"Nakatulong ng malaki 'yung adjustment period," said Guiao, who commended Clark for coming back into the game after taking an elbow to the face in the first half and needing stitches to close a cut.
"Nakikita ko kanina medyo nakakapa na niya 'yung totoong laro niya at saka 'yung timing niya, 'yung rhythm niya andiyan na. Nakikilala rin niya 'yung teammates niya, alam niya sino papasahan, saan, right time, right place," said Guiao.
"And nararamdaman din niya 'yung physicality ng liga. 'Yun ang importante rin. Naputukan pa siya, tinahi sa noo para lang makabalik sa laro," he added. "I think that's also going to factor in, the way he manages the physicality and his attitude towards it."
"Eh maganda 'yung attitude ng tao. Hindi siya napipikon. I think he has the tools, he has the body to play the physicality in the PBA."
Clark will be tested in the NLEX's best-of-five semifinals series, where they will take on defending champion Barangay Ginebra, bannered by their resident import Justin Brownlee.
Now 33 years old, Brownlee continues to be superb for Ginebra. He is averaging 29.4 points, 11.2 rebounds, and 5.6 assists per game, and was instrumental in their upset of the TNT Tropang GIGA in the quarterfinals.
The Road Warriors defeated the Gin Kings, 115-103, in their elimination round encounter, but that was with McDaniels in the fold.
"We will go over the film again and go over our game plan and watch their games against Talk 'N Text and see where we can make adjustments, how we can formulate a game plan against them," said Guiao.
Game 1 of the series is on Wednesday at the Mall of Asia Arena.