Watts injury adds to Cariaso woes

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    THE injury bug has bitten Alaska anew and frustration should be piling up on coach Jeff Cariaso. So it seems.

    “Honestly, no,” Cariaso said after an 83-109 loss to San Miguel Beer last Sunday that kept Aces in the cellar of the PBA Governors Cup.

    “We’re frustrated that we’re 0-3. But I think, and I shared this with the guys, the one thing that I want us to get out of this, even if we’re 0-3, is we understand our identity here at Alaska,” added Cariaso, who was named to take over from Alex Compton last Aug. 21.

    “We understand how I’d want them to play. During that process, there are growing pains, and we’re going through the growing pains now.”

    Import Justin Watts could have helped, but he suffered an injury in practice and joined Maverick Ahanmisi (foot), Kevin Racal (back) Jeron Teng (hamstring) and Noy Baclao (knee) on the sidelines.

    “He suffered a calf strain three days ago, so he rested for two days,” Cariaso related. “He tried last Saturday but he just couldn’t. So we felt it was best not to aggravate it even more.”

    There is no definite timetable for the return of Watts, who has been averaging 31.0 points, 13.0 rebounds, and 2.5 assists.

    The Aces face Meralco on Friday and Cariaso said a plan B would be put in effect should the former North Carolina standout’s status doesn’t change.

    “Backup plan, yes. There’s one in place. I won’t say it first to be honest with you, but there is obviously a back-up to our import situation,” said Cariaso. “You’ll just find out soon enough.”

    Without such problems is SMB, which improved to 2-0 and caught idle TNT at second overall.

    Beermen coach Leo Austria admitted ignorance on why Alaska played all-Filipino but was also quick to point out a break in whatever form is always a welcome one for his team.

    “Hindi ko alam kung ano kailangan sa kanila, but a win is a win for us,” said Austria. “We have a mission here, which is to get into the top four first kasi twice-to-beat iyon.”

    Playing an import-less opponent, Austria added, could offer some traps. But his team heeded his words at halftime and responded accordingly.

    “In the first half, we were leading by (just) seven points and I told them that we cannot take this team for granted because nagkakaroon sila ng kompiyansa. Kami naman ang energy namin napakababa,” related Austria. “When we proceeded in the third quarter everybody stepped up and I had the opportunity to field in all the players.”