The end of Phoenix's campaign in the 2018 PBA Philippine Cup also signified the start of their preparations for the upcoming Commissioner's Cup as head coach Louie Alas announced they will be getting the services of former Kia import James White for the next conference.
"He'll be arriving on the 13th," said Alas, Sunday night at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum. "He might not be in top condition yet so we'll have him work with our trainers under my supervision for me to see his development."
White first played for Kia (then called Mahindra Enforcer) in the 2016 Governors' Cup. Capitalizing on the import handicapping rules that the PBA had back then, Kia was able to get a 6-foot-9 import while the other teams were limited at 6-foot-5.
The young franchise took full advantage of this opportunity as they finished fourth in the elimination round before bowing to Allen Durham and the rest of the Meralco Bolts in the quarterfinals.
White averaged 24.3 points, 13.1 rebounds, and 2.0 blocks per game and led Mahindra to a 6-5 win-loss tally.
He returned to the PBA with the same team in the 2017 Commissioner's Cup where he performed even better with norms of 30.5 points, 18.5 rebounds, and 2.5 blocks. However, his team lost three of their first four games which forced them to replace White with Keith Wright.
"White is not an explosive scorer but really good on defense," said Alas, who added they also contemplated on bringing back former import Eugene Phelps.
"We considered Phelps but we don't have the luxury of getting a shorter import," the coach added, referring to Ginebra who will stick with Justin Brownlee as they have Greg Slaughter and Japeth Aguilar occupying the center and power forward positions. Defending Commissioner's Cup champion San Miguel Beer can also opt for a small forward instead of a big as they will still have June Mar Fajardo and Arwind Santos and will add top-pick Christian Standhanrdinger into their big-man rotation.
Aside from White and Brownlee, at least two more former PBA imports will be returning to the league with Vernon Macklin and Arinze Onuaku set to join Magnolia and Meralco, respectively.
Macklin last saw action for the Ginebra back in 2013 when he led the team to the finals where they lost to Alaska. Onuaku, on the other end, played for Meralco in 2016 where he won the Best Import of the Conference award.
Four more former PBA imports are rumored to be returning next conference. San Miguel Beer officials mentioned the possibility of getting Charles Rhodes again while TNT could give Joshua Smith another shot. Incidentally, the two met in the finals last season with Rhodes outplaying the injured Smith en route to the title.
The Blackwater Elite are tapping former GlobalPort import Jarrid Famous, while the Batang Pier are reportedly also leaning toward picking a returning import. Kia, meanwhile, has yet to secure an import according to Picanto head coach Ricky Dandan.
"(We're) still finalizing," said Dandan. "Hopefully within the week, so he can come over in time for our training camp on March 12."