(Photo by the PBA Media Bureau)
Statistically, the Magnolia Hotshots are the better team heading into their first game of the year against the team which has yet to win a single game this conference, the Kia Picanto.
Even though they are heavily favored to handle the Picanto their 3rd straight defeat this afternoon, the Hotshots, specifically Coach Chito Victolero has said it that they are aiming to be extra careful against the still winless Picanto who have a new coach and a new system to follow.
After all, Ricky Dandan, who took over following the resignation of Chris Gavina, aims to follow Joe Lipa's ways of the playing conventional style of basketball. And if you're fortunate enough to witness Joe Lipa coach during his heydays, then you know Magnolia is up against a much different team.
After bowing down to the Barangay Ginebra Gin Kings on Christmas Day, the Magnolia Hotshots are gunning for their second win in 3 games as the 16-day hiatus in between games hopefully enabled injured stars to heal from their injuries, specifically Jio Jalalon who has just been cleared to play. In addition to this, Victolero also hopes that PJ Simon and Marc Pingris to come out better after struggling against Ginebra. If the stars of Magnolia can pound early on, chances are Kia is already in a big trouble.
On the other hand, Ricky Dandan only had 7 practices with the Picanto after taking over at the helm. Installing a new system is among his priorities early on but according to the former head coach of the UP Fighting Maroons in the UAAP, his number 1 focus, for now, is to make sure that the Picanto becomes a solidified team before they can start moving forward.
It's good that Chito Victolero and his boys aren't taking the Picanto for granted as it will be a big embarrassment if they are to lose to Kia today. After all, who would want to be defeated by the worst team in the league right now?
On the other hand, a 0-2 record doesn't really translate to the amount of talent that Kia. After all, they almost beat the NLEX Road Warriors back in their first game of the new a season. ALMOST. Having said this, Chito Victolero is definitely correct in saying that Kia is indeed, a very dangerous team.