Phoenix coach Topex Robinson can afford to break a joke Wednesday night.
“If he scores 40, we’ll knock him out,” Robinson said after Kaleb Wesson’s 23 points and 13 rebounds helped Phoenix win 89-82 over Meralco in the PBA Com Commissioner’s Cup.
If only Norman Black could laugh with him.
As Phoenix’s patience with Wesson continued to pay dividends on Wednesday, things were in stark contrast to the Meralco camp and its more decorated Johnny O’Bryant import camp.
“When we took Kaleb, we knew what we were going to get,” said Robinson, whose third straight win after starting 0-3 in the PBA Commissioners Cup has been credited with not only assurance of the franchise’s financial affairs but also their satisfaction with what Wesson has delivered since joining the team.
“We did not expect Kaleb to score 30 points [or] 40 points,” Robinson said, adding that he wanted “someone who would protect, who would be our stick, who would speak up and who would make sure everyone was on the same page. .
“I don’t know if you see that, but he’s everywhere. He really got people engaged, woke them up when they were playing lackluster and that’s what we were looking for, and he responded well.”
Johnny coming home?
However, black needs to score. While he doesn’t have a specific number in mind, he certainly wants something more than just the seven points that O’Bryant manages at PhilSports Arena.
“We talked about it already,” Black said when asked if Meralco would stick with O’Bryant. “Obviously you don’t want your import hand to score seven points, leaving you with virtually no chance of winning. And it doesn’t help that we lack key players.”
And Black needs O’Bryant more now with injuries to Chris Newsome (calf) and Chris Banchero (ankle) sending the Bolts into a 1-4 (win-lose) spiral.
“I was hoping that his performance would go up this time around while waiting for the boys to return from injury. But he’s having a problem shooting from the box which I think is one of his strong points, but he’s not shooting well,” said Black, who is very high on O’Bryant, believes that The Bolts hit a “house run” when they got him to bolster the team for the mid-season conference.
Robinson is getting more than he expected from Wesson, who was praised for taking responsibility during Phoenix’s slow start, something that would normally make teams think about switching.
“He knows his mistakes, he owes it, and he’s trying to get better too,” Robinson concluded as his Fuel Masters moved among the pack with help from rookies Tyler Tio and Encho Serrano, who scored 14 points each.
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