Jewel Ponferada; Jericho Cruz. PBA Media Bureau

When Rain or Shine made moves in the preseason, Jewel Ponferada was one of those players acquired by the squad to help shore up its small frontline.

Sophomore Jericho Cruz, on the other hand, was expected to take on a bigger role in the backcourt, especially after Ryan Arana and Jonathan Uyloan got traded and TY Tang retired to concentrate on his family business.

To head coach Yeng Guiao’s surprise, both Cruz and Ponferada exceeded expectations something that was a huge factor for the Elasto Painters in their title run in the Oppo PBA Commissioner’s Cup.

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Blatche says this could be Gilas’ year (May 22, 2016)
Joaquin Henson [ Source: Philippine Star ]

 Andray Blatche. Photo courtersy of FIBAMANILA, Philippines – Gilas’ naturalized player Andray Blatche said yesterday he can’t wait to start working out with coach Tab Baldwin and the national team to prepare for the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament at the Mall of Asia Arena on July 5-10 and confirmed his arrival in Manila on May 27.

“I’m committed to the Philippines, the Filipino people, the fans and the Gilas program,” said Blatche in an overseas phone interview from his home in Atlanta. “I wanted us to make the second round at the FIBA World Cup in Spain but it didn’t happen. I wanted us to beat China in the FIBA Asia final but it didn’t happen. I just want us to make it happen this time in Manila. Experts can say what they want about our chances. All I know is the experts predicted we would lose every game in the World Cup by 30 and we surprised everyone. We were one or two players short of making it to the second round. We were close to beating some of the top countries in the world. If we show up with the right mindset and focus, we can pull it off. This is our year to do it. Canada’s talented but they’re a young team. Some NBA guys like Evan Fournier and Rudy Gobert won’t play for France. I just got a feeling we can win this thing.”

Blatche said after playing out the season in China last February, he chilled for a month then went back to work. “I had no injuries from China but I wanted to rest my body before hitting the gym, shooting and mountain climbing every other morning for about 10 miles up and down,” he said. “I did swimming, things to keep my body in shape. I didn’t want to go hard as I couldn’t risk anything flukey to happen before I get to Manila. I played some pick-up games but not the kind of 5-on-5 competition that will get me ready for the qualifier. As soon as I get to Manila, that’s when I’ll do all my running and hard work.”

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International Basketball

MANILA, Philippines – Gilas Pilipinas coach Tab Baldwin, in their first few days of training for the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament, is throwing caution to the winds, saying the Nationals must be in their best competitive form to defy tremendous odds and sneak into the Rio Olympics in August.

But Baldwin is neither discounting their chance to pull the rug from under the heavyweights in the FIBA OQT which the country hosts at the MOA Arena from July 5-10.

Baldwin, however, stressed they have a job cut out for them starting from training.

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Sources: Rockets to interview James Borrego on Monday (May 22, 2016)
Marc Stein [ Source: ESPN ]

NBA

The Houston Rockets, after focusing their coaching search on Mike D'Antoni for much of the past week, have opted to broaden the search.

The Rockets, according to league sources, have scheduled a Monday interview with San Antonio Spurs assistant coach James Borrego, who is a finalist for the Memphis Grizzlies' coaching vacancy.

ESPN reported earlier this week that Borrego and Miami Heat assistant David Fizdale had emerged as strong contenders for the Grizzlies' post following the decision by Frank Vogel, Memphis' top target, to take the Orlando Magic job.

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La Salle stuns San Beda, stays unbeaten (May 22, 2016)
Rodolfo Francisco [ Source: GMA Network ]

Local Basketball

De La Salle University (DLSU) Green Archers stung defending champions San Beda College (SBC) Red Lions, 94-85, to remain unbeaten in the elimination round of the FilOil Flying V Pre-season Premier Cup at the San Juan Arena on Friday.

Rookie big man Ben Mbala’s double-double performance lifted the Green Archers over the Red Lions in an apparent rematch of last year’s championship.

Mbala fired 26 points on 79 percent shooting performance from the field together with 16 rebounds, two steals and four blocks.

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EAC sends UP crashing back to earth (May 22, 2016)
Norman Lee Benjamin Riego [ Source: ABS CBN News ]

 BEGINNINGS AND ENDINGS. EAC finally barged into the win column after halting UP's win run.

The University of the Philippines again came up short in building on their back-to-back wins as Emilio Aguinaldo College clinched win number one in the 2016 Filoil Flying V Preseason Tournament at their expense.

On the back of double-double machines Hamadou Laminou and Sydney Onwubere, the Generals prevailed against the Maroons in a war of attrition, 68-59, on Saturday at the San Juan Arena.

Laminou collared 23 points and 15 rebounds while Onwubere collected 16 points and 17 rebounds, but it was an EAC defense that suffocated their opponents into 33 percent shooting that led to their first win after four tries. “We’re hungry for the win,” assistant coach Bong Melocoton said.

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 FLY HIGH. Papi Sarr and Adamson soared higher than Mapua minus Allwell Oraeme.

That is until the last two minutes of a nip-and-tuck affair.

Papi Sarr took advantage of an Allwell Oraeme-less frontline and pounded in six of the last eight points for Adamson University for an 85-81 decision over Mapua Institute of Technology.

The Cameroonian import wound up with 27 points, 16 rebounds, and three blocks, as well as the go-ahead basket that eventually ended up as the Falcons’ third consecutive victory in five games.

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NBA

Draymond Green has a championship ring and an All-Star berth as one of the Golden State Warriors' key players. He also carries a huge chip on his shoulder, as he wasn't taken until the 35th pick of the 2012 NBA draft.

Green is so driven by the draft snub that he can recite the names of each player taken before him from memory, according to a story in The Mercury News:

"First was Anthony Davis to New Orleans," [Green] says. "Then Charlotte took Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. Then Washington took Bradley Beal. Fourth was Cleveland: Dion Waiters.

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ROS poised for more wins (May 21, 2016)
Waylon Galvez [ Source: Inquirer ]

Jeff Chan believes that Rain or Shine will remain a serious contender after capturing the PBA Commissioner’s Cup title last Wednesday. (Ernie U. Sarmiento)

Rain or Shine veterans Paul Lee and Jeff Chan are one in saying that the team will remain formidable if they  stay healthy.

“That’s for sure, iba siyempre kapag kumpleto kami,” said Lee, who was unanimously named as the PBA Press Corps CIGNAL Finals MVP with his virtuoso performance in the series.

“Nakita naman what we can do with a healthy unit… we won a title,” added the sweet shooting Chan.

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Cleveland Cavaliers held up by customs in Canada (May 21, 2016)
James Quintong [ Source: ESPN ]

NBA

The Cleveland Cavaliers have looked unstoppable in their first two games against the Toronto Raptors in the Eastern Conference finals. However, they may have met their match in Canadian customs officials as the team traveled to Toronto for Game 3.

As forward Richard Jefferson chronicled on his Snapchat account on Friday, the team was stuck on the plane on Friday waiting to get cleared through customs.

Tristan Thompson, who was born in Canada, was frustrated with the wait, telling Jefferson, "And I'm Canadian." They sat on the steps of the plane with LeBron James and J.R. Smith.

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