Defending champion Talk ‘N Text, reinforced once more by comebacking import Ivan Johnson, opens its title defense of the PBA Commissioner’s Cup against Blackwater as the import-spiced, mid-season conference kicks off on February 10 at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
The Tropang Texters, though, will be tested during the first week as they play three games in nine days.
The Elite, buoyed by their first-ever playoff appearance in franchise history during the Philippine Cup, will have former Ole Miss Rebel standout MJ Rhett as their import.
After the Elite, Talk ‘N Text takes on sister team Meralco three days later at the Philsports Arena, before clashing with GlobalPort on February 19.
The 6-foot-8 Johnson, looking trim in his second tour of duty, averaged 26.8 points, 12.7 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 1.9 steals last season, helping the Talk ‘N Text score a 4-3 Finals conquest of Rain or Shine.
Veteran forward Ranidel de Ocampo is also expected to return from a lower back injury that forced him to miss all but one game of the Philippine Cup this season.
Meantime, crowd darling Barangay Ginebra will be debuting on February 12 against the NLEX Road Warriors, who will be bannered once more by former Los Angeles Clipper Al Thornton.
The Gin Kings will be led by former Washington Wizard Othyus Jeffers, the 2014 NBA D-League MVP and will be teaming up with Ginebra’s young front court of Greg Slaughter and Japeth Aguilar.
Thornton, the Clippers’ 14th overall pick in the 2007 NBA Draft, averaged 30.8 points, 12.4 rebounds, 1.6 assists and 1.0 block in over 42 minutes of play with NLEX last season.
On the other hand, multi-titled Star makes its much-awaited debut also on opening day against Meralco with former Best Import Denzel Bowles out to help the Hotshots redeem themselves following their sorry ninth-place finish in the all-Filipino conference.
New team Phoenix Petroleum, which recently bought the Barako Bull franchise won’t play its first PBA game till February 17 against NLEX.