Chris Newsome and Cliff Hodge are not expected to come back sooner for Meralco as the two remain under the PBA’s health and safety protocols.
Bolts head coach Norman Black said that his stars won’t be in action when they take on the struggling Blackwater in Saturday’s PBA Philippine Cup play.
“I’m pretty sure that they won’t be back in our next game because that game is on Saturday,” said the decorated mentor.
Newsome and Hodge were out of Thursday’s game versus Terrafirma, which was the team’s return to competition after being out of last week’s slate in accordance with the league’s health and safety protocols.
An undermanned Orangemen crew showed up against the Dyip. Aside from their leaders, young big man Raymar Jose was also out, which shortened the team’s rotation to just 11 players.
It was supposed to be 12, but the team lost Aaron Black due to a hand injury just two minutes into the match. The 24-year-old guard never returned to the game, as he was sent to the hospital to undergo an x-ray.
Even the coaching staff were incomplete, with Patrick Fran and Gene Afable the only deputies of Black on the bench. Not on the bench were coaches Ronnie Magsanoc, Luigi Trillo, and Charles Tiu, along with team manager Paolo Trillo.
“Some of my coaches as well as my manager, are also affected by the health protocols so they’re not here. Even the coaching staff was a little bit undermanned tonight,” said Black.
The Grand Slam coach admitted that he wasn’t sure how his Meralco would react coming from a lengthy layoff, thus his satisfaction to see his team pull off the 95-83 victory that improved their card to 6-2.
The win was definitely a sigh of relief for the Bolts, for it also kept them firmly on the second spot of the team standings — making them closer to clinching a twice-to-beat advantage for the quarterfinals.
“We were off for two weeks, so when that happens in the middle of the season, you have never have any idea how your team’s going to place when you come back,” he said. “I thought we were very rusty in the first half.
“But in the second half, we did rebound the ball better. We were getting some shots to go. We were able to take advantage of some matchups that we thought were good for us, and we came up with the victory.”
But while they’re about to miss Hodge and Newsome anew on Saturday, Black expects them to return next week, possibly the last week of the eliminations.
After facing the Bossing, the only teams they are set to face are the NLEX Road Warriors and rivals Barangay Ginebra San Miguel.
“I’m counting on them to be back by the next time we play after that, which I’m not really sure what the schedule is, but whenever we play next week, they should be back already.”