NLEX is among the teams considered as the tough challengers to San Miguel Beer's five-peat bid with the key adjustments to its lineup in the offseason.
Gaining length on their acquisition of Poy Erram, and quickness, shooting and court smarts on the return of Kevin Alas, the Road Warriors make their initial outing in the 2019 PBA Philippine Cup versus Rain or Shine at the Cuneta Astrodome Friday.
Erram could well be a big boost but the Road Warriors had to give up Mike Miranda, Alex Mallari and Dave Marcelo to acquire the 6-foot-8 center from Blackwater.
The former Ateneo player is coming from a breakout season in pro play where he landed in the Second Mythical Team.
Alas, meanwhile, is hopeful he has regained rhythm and confidence going to his PBA return.
"Noong una, talagang walang timing. Unang tira ko nga sa practice, hindi tumama sa ring. Pero in-encourage ako ni coach Yeng na tumira ng tumira. Sabi nya babalik yan shooting mo," said Alas.
One other new face in the NLEX lineup is rookie forward Kristofer Porter.
With their old lineup, the Road Warriors made a breakthrough with a fourth-place finish in the last all-Filipino tourney.
In their Season 44 debut, the Road Warriors will be up against the ROS team rejuvenated by the return of Raymond Almazan and the addition of No. 6 draft selection Javee Mocon and another draftee Jayjay Alejandro.
Almazan said he's put his episode with coach Caloy Garcia behind him, and they're all ready to have a fresh start.
"Tapos na yon," said Almazan, who went AWOL at midstream in the last Governors Cup.
An interesting matchup is that of Almazan versus Erram - players who are teaming up with Andray Blatche, June Mar Fajardo and Japeth Aguilar to form the Gilas frontline versus Qatar and Kazakhstan in the final window of the FIBA World Cup qualifier in February.(SB)