BLACKWATER is a vastly improved crew now in the PBA Governors Cup than the one which mostly floundered in its first eight conferences in the pro league.
All because of Henry Walker.
No less than Rain or Shine coach Caloy Garcia acknowledges this fact.
"We know that Blackwater is a totally different team," he said. "They have one of the best imports. Their locals have complemented their import pretty well."
How to throw discord into that chemistry between Walker and the rest the Elite is what the Elasto Painters would be aiming for when they clash in the Petron Blaze Saturday Special -- the penultimate day of the season-ending tourney's eliminations at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Both teams are assured of quarterfinals seats but another win by Rain or Shine would push it higher in the standings, even a top four slot depending on the outcomes of the final elims matches by the other contending teams.
"I think we can go as high as No. 3 pero iyung 1 and 2 wala na kasi the most we can get is seven wins," noted Garcia. "Of course, wala naman kaming control sa ibang games. So we just have to try and beat Blackwater."
Blackwater, on the other hand, is running last among the eight quarterfinalists but is still seeking to move a notch higher in a bid to bolster its best finish in a tournament since joining the league three years ago.
That explains why Elite coach Leo Isaac wants his charges to still go all-out against the E-Painters.
"To further improve our standings, in case there are some more upsets among the teams above us," Isaac said. "By our calculations kasi, baka may tsansang mag-No. 7.
"But our primary goal has been to win as many games in the eliminations and even if we're now qualified we're still going to do our very best to win over Rain or Shine on Saturday."
Should Blackwater prevails, it will mark the first time in nine conferences with the league it has notched six wins.
Walker, a former NBA campaigner who came in and promptly lifted the Elite from a 0-3 start, should once again play a huge part with his averages of 28.4 points, 17.29 rebounds and 5.0 assists, plus tons of leadership.
The stats line of J'Nathan Bullock is not as impressive, but Garcia said the former New York Jet is doing fine for Rain or Shine.
"Wala naman kaming masyadong complaints du'n sa import namin. He works hard and that's important," stressed Garcia.
"I think the locals like him and they can complement him also. He can complement the locals also. The nice thing about it is he can play the bigs and the guards so maybe against Blackwater he can play the guard."
Allein Maliksi is coming off a 22-point debut for the Elite and will be joining Mike Digregorio, JP Erram and Roi Sumang as the ones most likely to help out Walker, but the E-Painters have their own threats in Raymond Almazan, Jericho Cruz, Maverick Ahanmisi, Beau Belga and Chris Tiu.
And then there's Gabe Norwood, who is sure to anchor the defense on Walker.
Still, Garcia knows they will have their hands full.
"It's gonna be a tough game come Saturday."