TNT and Meralco are poised to defend Philippine turf when they host their foreign rivals in the East Asia Super League (EASL).
The TNT Tropang Giga will hit the court on Nov. 1 at the Sta. Rosa Sports Complex in Laguna in a return match with Japan’s Chiba Jets that kicks off the home outings for the two PBA ball clubs in the home-and-away regional league.
After the All Saints’ Day gig, the reigning Governors’ Cup titlist will host the Taipei Fubon Braves on Dec. 20 in a yet-to-be-determined venue and Korea’s Anyang on Jan. 24 at the PhilSports Arena.
For the Meralco Bolts, the home swing will be on Dec. 11 in a stadium to be determined against Japan’s Ryukyu Golden Kings and Dec. 27 and Jan. 3 against Korea’s Seoul SK Knights and New Taipei Kings, respectively, both at the PhilSports Arena.
TNT will be fueled by a desire to get back at the Jets, who dealt them a 75-93 loss in the Group A opener in Funabashi Arena last Oct. 11. The Tropang Giga faded in the second half of that away assignment after keeping it close in the first.
“We’re looking forward to the rematch against Chiba and right now we’re in better shape (than the first match),” TNT assistant coach Sandy Arespacochaga said in yesterday’s Zoom presscon launching the PBA teams’ home games in the EASL.
“We also got two key players back and practicing with us. (Import) Rondae (Hollis-Jefferson) joined us in the game in Japan with no practice and Calvin Oftana is back after missing the first game (while on his post-Asian Games vacation).”
Mr. Hollis-Jefferson, TNT’s reinforcement in the PBA Commissioner’s Cup, is in tandem with Quincy Miller in the EASL.
Debutant Meralco will see action in Group B on the road first — against Ryukyu Golden Kings in Okinawa on Nov. 15 and versus New Taipei Kings in Taiwan two weeks later — before playing at home.
“A lot of challenges are coming up. We know competition is very strong but we’re excited to represent Meralco, the PBA and the Philippines in the EASL,” said Bolts team manager Paolo Trillo, whose team will be reinforced by Sulaiman Braimoh and Prince Ibeh.
EASL Chief Executive Officer Matt Beyer and PBA commissioner Willie Marcial joined the two teams in rolling out the Philippine slates of TNT and Meralco.
“We have so many great memories from last year with the Bay Area Dragons and playing in that seven-game finals series (PBA Commissioner’s Cup against Ginebra). And we’re excited to recreate that atmosphere by bringing top international opponents to play against PBA teams in the EASL,” said Mr. Beyer.
“Fans are excited, teams are excited and most especially the PBA is excited with EASL coming and playing here,” said Mr. Marcial. — Olmin Leyba