by Jonas Terrado
TNT KaTropa import Joshua Smith expressed readiness to face the San Miguel Beermen in the PBA Commissioner’s Cup finals even as the team brought in Mike Myers on standby should the wide-bodied import’s injured right foot won’t improve before the series opener.
Smith hurt his foot during TNT’s semifinal duel against Barangay Ginebra San Miguel, playing through pain in Saturday’s series-clinching 122-109 Game 4 victory at the Cuneta Astrodome in Pasay City.
KaTropa coach Nash Racela was non-committal when asked if Smith would stay for the title series or go with Myers, who stands at 6-foot-8 and was spotted sitting behind the bench during the game.
Racela, however, praised Smith for deciding to play despite of the situation.
“He said ‘I know I’m hurting, but it will hurt more if I don’t play,’ and that’s the heart of a champion,” Racela said.
Asked if he will be ready to go in time for the first game of the best-of-seven series slated Wednesday at the Smart Araneta Coliseum, Smith is taking and wait-and-see approach.
“I have no idea. We go to practice (today), we’ll see, but right now we’ll take it day-by-day,” said the 330-lb Smith, literally a huge asset for TNT and a major problem for Ginebra during the just-concluded semis.
Smith hurt his foot in Thursday’s Game 3 that saw Ginebra capitalizing on his brief appearance with a 125-101 victory at the Big Dome, foiling TNT’s bid to sweep the series.
TNT was forced to play all-Filipino the whole fourth quarter when a hobbling Smith went inside the locker room for a few minutes before returning on the bench to witness Jayson Castro complete his magnificent 38-point performance that clinched the KaTropa’s 17th finals appearance.
The KaTropa will have their hands full against the Beermen, who earned the first finals berth with a four-game victory over the Star Hotshots in the other semis series.
Smith hopes to be around wearing his No. 34 jersey against a Beermen team powered by import Charles Rhodes.
“San Miguel’s a good team. This is another team I haven’t got a chance to play but I’m gonna watch the film and prepare for them,” Smith said.
The planned preparation wouldn’t matter, though, if his foot won’t be healthy in time for Game 1, which may leave TNT with no choice but to hand Myers his uniform.
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