MERALCO is out for redemption through the PBA Governors' Cup and foremost among those who know this is Rain or Shine coach Yeng Guiao.
"Alam nating raring to get back sila dahil na-eliminate sila last conference," said Guiao, referring to the Bolts' 10th place finish in the recent Commissioner's Cup which they hope to make up for by going deep this time around.
"This is their revenge conference," added Guiao.
A sneak peek on whether Meralco could indeed bounce back strong or Guiao would continue molding Rain or Shine into a contender on his second conference back with the team should be had when the two squads kick off the season-ending tournament Sunday at the PhilSports Arena.
Two-time season MVP and now San Juan city councilor James Yap, who has not seen action since the 2021 Philippine Cup due to injuries and politics, is suiting up after signing a one-conference deal with Elasto Painters but would not be seeing too much action just yet.
"I would not say he's in full game-shape... around 90 percent siguro," noted Guiao. "He needs a few games to get himself back into his rhythm. But he's practicing well, he's in good shape physically. Pero siyempre kailangan pa niyang ibalik 'yung competitive toughness niya. We're not expecting a lot out of him, but gradually I think he can make some contributions to the team."
More are expected of import Michael Qualls, who averaged 33.6 points, 13.4 rebounds, and 3.6 assists in 11 games as replacement for Mychal Ammons and led NorthPort to as far as the semifinals in the 2019 edition of the same tournament.
"A lot of our deficiencies, shortcomings, are going to be, hopefully, addressed by the type of import we have," said Guiao, who on his return to the E-Painters readily steered them to the quarterfinals of the last in the Commissioner's Cup.
With Chris Newsome fully recovered from a calf injury that sidelined him for almost the entire Commissioner's Cup and import KJ McDaniels in razor-sharp form, Meralco would be coming in at full strength.
"I think he's in better shape now than in the last conference - that's a huge difference," said Guiao of McDaniels, who gave his then team NLEX enough momentum to get as far as the semifinals of the 2021 Governors' Cup and had a decent showing for Meralco after being tapped as a replacement import in the last conference.
"He's had more time to prepare. I know what he can do when he's in top shape. We're actually concerned about how KJ will play so we have to plan something for him," added Guiao. "Babalik na rin sa kanila si Newsome. They should be getting to their maximum potential when Newsome is playing."
Indeed, Meralco coach Norman Black is optimistic his team will perform much better this time around but likes to keep his crosshairs on Rain or Shine. "Right now, everybody's good," he said.
"KJ is in much better shape now than in the last conference, that's gonna help us a lot. The guys are ready to play. We'd like to think that with New (Newsome) coming back our team will be a lot stronger this conference and give us a chance to win more games," added Black. (NC)