Alaska head coach Alex Compton himself revealed that the Aces were far from impressed with Nino Johnson after he took the import chores from Chris Daniels against the Phoenix Pulse Fuel Masters last June 16.
Johnson did make a mark on defense by collecting game-highs of five steals and four blocks. But he only had six points, four rebounds, and four assists in over 31 minutes – numbers not expected from imports.
“Nino Johnson wasn’t close to being in shape,” Compton said. “Sometimes the import risk is [that] what you see on video is what you think you’re gonna get, and what you hear from people is what you think you’re gonna get.
“You know he just wasn’t in shape, and we didn’t have time to get ways to go. And six points and four rebounds… You know that was an easy choice,” added the outspoken mentor, whose side lost to Phoenix with Johnson, 76-78.
Thus, Johnson got the pink slip. The Aces then didn’t look that far for another import, as they simply re-activated the 35-year-old Daniels versus the San Miguel Beermen on Friday.
Compton had nothing but kind words for Daniels – who didn’t leave the country – for handling his situation professionally.
“He’s a total pro,” he said of Daniels, who helped the Aces to a 4-2 record this 2019 PBA Commissioner’s Cup before being replaced.
“Something crazy would have to happen for me to say something bad about that guy. He’s a total pro.”
On the other hand, Daniels said, “Just have to be professional about it, man.
“Things happen in basketball and you gotta roll with the punches. If you fight the wave, you’re gonna get drowned. You gotta roll with it, man.”
His professionalism showed Friday, as Daniels gave his best in his comeback. The former NBA D-League champ produced 23 points and 22 rebounds, plus two assists and a block in 39 minutes and 20 seconds of action.
Unfortunately, his efforts weren’t enough. The Milkmen lost anew, 107-119, falling to 4-4 in the mid-season joust.
“It feels good to come back. Disappointed that we didn’t get the win,” lamented Daniels moments after the match at the Cuneta Astrodome. “But we just gotta stay focused and locked in for the next game on Sunday.”
When asked if the Aces will now stick with Daniels, Compton said that “everything’s always up in the air.”
But whatever happens, Daniels hopes that he and Alaska will keep on growing from Friday’s loss.
“Moving forward, I hope we learn from our lessons,” said Daniels, who’s averaging 18.1 points, 11.1 rebounds, and 2.3 blocks.
“We’re going to learn from what we did wrong. We’re gonna go back to practice and we’ll fix it.”