May 23, 2018, 8:23 pm
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Romeo debut with TNT: ‘Acceptable’

A PRIZED acquisition and an import armed with impressive credentials failed to live up to TNT’s expectations.

Coach Nash Racela is not complaining, however, since the KaTropa managed to beat recent trading partner GlobalPort 128-114 last Sunday in the PBA Commissioner’s Cup at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

“It’s good to have a start like this, opening a tournament campaign with a win,” noted Racela. “But as you can also see there’s still room for a lot of improvement on our part.”

Racela, who assumed his post only prior to last season, was specifically referring to Terrence Romeo and former NBA campaigner Jeremy Tyler.

Many-time scoring champion Romeo, recently acquired from the Batang Pier, came up with just 11 points despite a team-high 13 attempts in his debut for TNT while Tyler was hobbled by early foul trouble and finished with just 14 points and 12 rebounds.

“Acceptable,” was how Racela assessed Romeo’s performance that included two rebounds, three assists, a steal, a block and five turnovers in almost 27 minutes of action. 

“Again, this is just Terrence’s fourth game, I think, coming from semi-retirement. He was out for a whole conference so obviously if you look at him he’s not yet in good playing shape, his timing is kind of off,” added Racela. “He did what we expected him to be in this game.”

With many-time MVP candidate and team stalwart Jayson Castro taking Romeo, among others, under his wings, the former Far Eastern U standout should only get better as a KaTropa, according to Racela.

“Jayson has really been embracing that role of guiding the other players, younger players, really leading them,” Racela said.

“He makes it a point to talk to them, even in practice. How Jimmy (Alapag) guided him when he was starting out in the PBA I think that’s exactly the role of Jayson now for his new teammates.”

Racela also had kind words for Tyler, on whose shoulders rest the responsibility of powering the team to the finals as what man-mountain Josh Smith did last year, but was limited to just less than 26 minutes in his PBA debut.

“It’s always a struggle for new imports coming in, playing in the PBA. Almost all of them, in the first three to five games they get into foul trouble,” Racela said.

“That’s why some other teams brought back imports who are all familiar with the play here in the PBA. It’s hard for an import to play just 26 minutes because of foul trouble,” he added.

“That’s something he will have to learn. We’re hoping he would make his own adjustments. We plan to play him 40 minutes.” 

Good thing the likes of Castro and Roger Pogoy were there to spearhead a more balanced attack that tided the KaTropa over in the highly-physical contest.

Castro came off the bench to notch 21 points, 10 assists and six rebounds; Pogoy started and finished with 20 points, seven rebounds, three assists and two steals while five other players breached double figures for TNT.

With that balanced attack, the KaTropa ruled the highly physical contest that featured altercations between Jessie Saitanan and Malcolm White, Tyler and Mo Tautuaa and Joseph Gabayni and Pogoy, among others, costing the offenders either technical or flagrant fouls.

The way the game became overly rugged at times became Racela’s major concern.

“It’s nice that the PBA is allowing some level of physicality but if it gets to a point where players intentionally hurt each other, we should all question that,” said Racela.

“We encourage our players to be physical and not be afraid of the other teams. That’s exactly the reason why we got some players who we think are tough. Tough players who give us now a different kind of identity. 

“But then again I’ll go back to excessive movements on the part of the players. We have to take notice of that. After all, we’re all after the good of the players.”
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