The league-leading Converge FiberXers will try to keep their momentum going as they face the TNT Tropang Giga on Wednesday, February 8.
The Converge FiberXers are currently on four game-win streaks as they successfully took down the NorthPort Batang Pier, the Terrafirma Dyip, the Magnolia Chicken Timplado Hotshots, and the Rain or Shine Elasto Painters.
Meanwhile, TNT Tropang Giga's record has been blemished by their loss against the NLEX Road Warriors, but they are still in fifth place with a 3-1 win-loss record after beating the Phoenix Super LPG Fuel Masters, the Rain or Shine Elasto Painters, and the Magnolia Chicken Timplado Hotshots.
Both teams have a relatively new coach Aldin Ayo for the Converge FiberXers and Jojo Lastimosa for the TNT Tropang Giga – and it is up to them to make the necessary adjustments.
However, at the end of the day, Halo Sports predicts that the winner of tomorrow's first match will be the Converge FiberXers.
Battle of the Imports: Converge FiberXers's Jamaal Franklin vs TNT Tropang Giga's Jalen Hudson
Jamaal Franklin has been the replacement for Converge FiberXers's original import, Australian Ethan Rusbatch, who was played in the team's reserved/injured list just after playing one game.
In his only game with the Converge FiberXers against the NorthPort Batang Pier, Ethan Rusbatch had 17 points, nine rebounds, and three assists in 37 minutes of action. Meanwhile, Jamaal Franklin has been averaging 31 points, 12.33 rebounds, and 10 assists in his three games with the Converge FiberXers.
In his first game with the Converge FiberXers against the Terrafirma Dyip, Jamaal Franklin erupted for 42 points, 11 rebounds, and eight assists in 40 minutes of action. Against the Magnolia Chicken Timplado Hotshots, Jamaal Franklin was only limited to 26 points, 13 rebounds, and seven assists. Luckily, Jamaal Franklin's local teammates stood up, took the mantle, and helped him carry the team to victory.
Against the Rain or Shine Elasto Painters, Jamaal Franklin recorded his first-ever triple-double in the PBA with 25 points, 13 rebounds, and 15 assists. Critics may argue that his points are going down, but Jamaal Franklin inspired his teammates to perform and carry a huge load out of him.
As Converge FiberXers head coach Aldin Ayo said after Jamaal Franklin's high-scoring debut game, "I think we will go with Jamaal. We are going to stick with him. We will make sure that he will fit in our system."
Meanwhile, TNT Tropang Giga import Jalen Hudson is averaging 27.75 points, 9.5 rebounds, and 4.57 assists per game. In his PBA debut against the Phoenix Super LPG Fuel Masters, Jalen Hudson had 34 points, 10 rebounds, and seven assists in their 123-119 victory.
In his second game against the Rain or Shine Elasto Painters, Jalen Hudson recorded 24 points and 14 rebounds. In TNT Tropang Giga's 108-110 loss against the NLEX Road Warriors, Jalen Hudson scored 39 points, 10 rebounds, and five assists.
Jalen Hudson's first three games for the TNT Tropang Giga were all impressive but it went down when they faced the Magnolia Chicken Timplado Hotshots as he only recorded 14 points, four rebounds, and five assists. Before the game, Jalen Hudson was averaging 32.3 points, 11.3 rebounds, and 4.7 assists per game.
Impressive as it seems, TNT Tropang Giga head coach and PBA legend Jojo Lastimosa challenged his import to have more assists.
He said after TNT Tropang Giga's win against the Magnolia Chicken Timplado Hotshots, "My challenge with Jalen today is that he has to have at least 10 assists in this game. If your assist ratio is high, it means that the other guys are going to be wide open because you have lots of opportunities to get some assists because the ball is in his hands the whole time."
Unarguably, Jamaal Franklin and Jalen Hudson proved that they are the imports of their respective team ¬¬– providing help and guiding their teams through victories. However, it will all come down to the execution.
If that's the case, Jamaal Franklin and the rest of the Converge FiberXers are much more consistent that Jalen Hudson and the rest of the TNT Tropang Giga.
Battle of the Coaches: Converge FiberXers's Aldin Ayo vs TNT Tropang Giga's Jojo Lastimosa
Arguably, Converge FiberXers head coach Aldin Ayo is one of the hottest coaches in the league right now. Although he has yet to win a PBA championship under his belt, he beat longtime PBA coaches, including grand slam coach Norman Black of the Meralco Bolts, five-time PBA coach of the Year Chot Reyes of TNT Tropang Giga, and nine-time champion Leo Austria of the San Miguel Beermen.
In fact, none other than Barangay Ginebra San Miguel head coach Tim Cone, the winningest coach in the history of the PBA, praised coach Aldin Ayo in his first conference with the Converge FiberXers.
He said, "He's been successful everywhere he has coached. I expect him to be very successful in the PBA."
Before jumping in the PBA, Coach Aldin Ayo already won championships in two collegiate leagues in the Philippines – in the National Collegiate Athletic Association with the Colegio de San Juan de Letran Knights, and in the University Athletic Association of the Philippines with the De La Salle University Green Archers. Not to mention, coach Aldin won a championship for each of these schools in his rookie year.
In contrast, TNT Tropang Giga head coach Jojo Lastimosa only had one head coaching job as the lead tactician of the Batang Risers in the Maharlika Pilipinas Basketball League. Although he lead the team as top seed after the eliminations with an impressive 23-2 win-loss record, the team bowed out in the semifinals.
Now that he just took over the TNT Tropang Giga after Chot Reyes, Jojo Lastimosa has to prove himself worthy of the position. Although he is already a legend as a player in Asia's oldest pay-for-play basketball league, he has yet to make a mark.
PBA Preview: Converge FiberXers against the TNT Tropang Giga
In the end, it all boils down to how the imports – Converge FiberXers's Jamaal Franklin and TNT Tropang Giga's Jalen Hudson – would perform. If Jalen Hudson and the TNT Tropang Giga would rise up to the challenge of coach Jojo Lastimosa, they could win against the guys of Coach Alden Ayo, who is known for their high-octane offense.
If not, the Converge FiberXers will continue their win streak as Coach Aldin Ayo continues to make his mark in the PBA.