FORMER NBA player Shabazz Muhammad makes his awaited PBA debut Sunday as he banners San Miguel Beer against Magnolia in an explosive showdown of elite teams at the Ynares Center in Antipolo City.
Streaking SMB activated Muhammad in lieu of Orlando Johnson ahead of the 6:30 p.m. match, where the high-profile reinforcement immediately gets tested against the ever-efficient Mike Harris of the Hotshots (6-1).
The Hotshots are seeking a quick bounceback from a 101-103 loss to NorthPort that stained their 6-0 card and continue to stay in the summit as the chase for the Top 4 and twice-to-beat playoffs bonus heats up.
The Beermen, for their part, are looking to stretch their two-game streak and jack up their current record of 5-3 to crack the No. 4 spot.
SMB coach Leo Austria said the opportunity to get a top-caliber import in Muhammad, whose shining credentials included a stint with the Minnesota Timberwolves from 2013-18, is too hard to pass up on even if Johnson was doing well.
"First ang tinitignan namin is how to improve. Going to the playoffs it's a different matter," explained Austria, whose team will have its third import this conference after starting with Brandon Brown then going with Johnson at the games' resumption.
"If you are in the Top 4, you have the luxury of twice-to-beat (in the quarterfinals). If you're in the bottom (fifth to eighth), twice to beat ang kalaban mo. So every player na magiging available who could beef up the team (is welcome)," he added.
The 29-year-old Muhammad, who also suited up for the Shanxi Loongs and the Shenzhen Aviators in China, plunges into action in Asia's first play-for-pay league two months after his aborted tour with Meralco.
The 14th overall pick in the 2013 NBA Draft signed up with the Bolts last November but backed out due to "family emergency."
Because he didn't get to actually play for Meralco and the Bolts tapped Tony Bishop as its import, Muhammad was cleared to join other teams. (OL)