3 p.m. — Blackwater vs Bay Area Dragons
5:45 p.m. — NorthPort vs Phoenix
TWO teams that figured in separate blockbuster trades just before the opening tip. A squad that starts a new journey minus its long-time gunner. A high-powered guest entry from Hong Kong that is capable of winning it all.
With this cast, the PBA fires off the Commissioner’s Cup today at the MOA Arena, marking the return of the mid-season tournament after a pandemic-forced absence in 2020 and 2021.
Blackwater Bossing, fresh from acquiring Troy Rosario and Gab Banal in a three-way swap with TNT and NLEX, and the Dragons, in their PBA debut, raise the curtains at 3 p.m.
The NorthPort Batang Pier, coming off a switch with Ginebra and San Miguel Beer that landed them Arvin Tolentino, Prince Caperal, Jeff Chan and Kent Salado, duels with Phoenix, now without franchise player Matthew Wright, in the main game at 5:45 p.m.
Major trades grabbed the spotlight on the eve of the Commissioner’s Cup tipoff.
As a result of yesterday’s deal among NorthPort, SMB and Ginebra, the Gin Kings acquired Fil-Am Jamie Malonzo and Von Pessumal while the Beermen got the Batang Pier’s 2024 and 2025 second-round draft picks. In addition to the four players, NorthPort also received Ginebra’s 2023 first-round
This came after another big trade where the Bossing unloaded No. 1 pick Brandon Rosser and their second-round choices in the 2022 and 2025 drafts, who eventually went to NLEX, while the Tropang Giga got Calvin Oftana and Raul Soyud.
Three imports are making their maiden PBA appearances in the double-header — Blackwater’s Cameron Krutwig, Kaleb Weeson of Phoenix, and either Andrew Nicholson or Myles Powell of Bay Area. NorthPort, meanwhile, is bringing back balik-import Prince Ibeh.
“We would like to build on our playoff run last conference,” said coach Ariel Vanguardia, who is banking on JVee Casio, Baser Amer, Ato Ular and Rey Suerte, aside from Krutwig and the two former TNT players, in this endeavor.
They’re up against a Dragons team bannered by NBA veteran import and Chinese-born and Chinese foreign-born Hong Kong resident ID holders.
“Tall, talented and unpredictable,’ Mr. Vanguardia said of the Dragons, who beat them and other PBA teams in tuneup games. “We still don’t know which import they will use so it gives them an advantage.” — Olmin Leyba