Phoenix has had bad luck as of late.
With that said...
What in the world did they do to deserve these guys?
The second playdate of the new PBA season came and went with Phoenix and Terrafirma losing... as always.
But something's different with these twin defeats.
First of all, the Fuel Masters had zero first-round picks in the 2022 PBA Draft (or Season 47... bleh) but made it up by having a bunch of second-round steals.
Also, Terrafirma stumbled on a gold mine in Javi Gomez de Liano.
Tyler Tio had five triples including one cold-blooded, fast-break three that could have his one-way ticket to the Phoenix bench if this was played in the 90s. Not unless you're Jimmy Alapag, it's hard for teams to accept this move especially if it's coming from a second-round pick.
With that said, Tyler Tio had the perfect PBA debut - knocking all five attempts in the three-point area to finish with 17 points in 24 minutes.
But on the other side of the spectrum lies Encho Serrano. The former Ginebra 3X3 player had a good all-around game with 15 points, 8 rebounds, and 5 assists in 25 minutes. Sure, Tyler Tio brought the coolness in his first game but it's Serrano's numbers that could entice Topex Robinson to use him more often. At the moment, Phoenix is in some sort of rebuild mode and to keep Matthew Wright from leaving, they have to parade a bunch of help just to give Phoenix some sort of contender status.
Chris Lalata, the other second-round pick, also had a respectable showing with 5 points (2-of-2 from the field), 2 rebounds, and a steal in just 9 minutes of action.
17 POINTS | 5 TRIPLES | 100% 3PT FG | 2 REBOUNDS | 1 ASSIST | 24 MINUTES
15 POINTS | 53% FG | 8 REBOUNDS | 5 ASSISTS | 1 STEAL | 25 MINUTES
5 POINTS | 100% FG | 2 REBOUNDS | 1 STEAL | 9 MINUTES
So let me say this - Terrafirma's uniform is fire. I don't know if this is camo or muddy tire tracks but their jersey design is cool on a lot of levels. In some ways, it kind of made Joseph Gabayni and Eric Camson look as if they are part of the New Zealand Tall Blacks rugby team with the way they wore that imposing black color.
While Letran's Allen Mina only had a cameo, Javi Gomez De Liano is a person of interest. As mentioned in an earlier blog, Terrafirma wasted their Top 2 pick when they selected Jeremiah Gray. When they traded Gray to Ginebra for Javi GDL and Brian Enriquez, Terrafirma leveled up. Sure, luck had something to do in making this pick, and the Ginebra trade was solid for both teams. Ginebra could have taken someone else in the first round. But Terrafirma still lucked out and the last thing they need to do is waste the pick and let it fall to the hands of a random SMC or MVP team.
JAVI GOMEZ DE LIANO
4 POINTS | 9 REBOUNDS | 5 ASSISTS | 25 MINUTES
0/1 FGS | 3 MINUTES
I think I am high on Javi Gomez de Liano over Tyler Tio and Encho Serrano because if the law of averages settles, Javi GDL's numbers are more sustainable - especially for a rookie. And there's a possibility that this isn't his ceiling because an all-around player with that kind of playing time in a team in need of depth will surely have more opportunities to make a name for himself.
With that said, both teams are in need of support. Tio is a "lights-out" shooter that came from a championship system and Serrano also had that when he was still with the DLSU Green Archers. I can't discount Lalata because of the rave reviews he got from playing in the MPBL and the draft combine.
Four more teams to debut and let's see how the rest of the rookies fare.