NLEX Road Warriors' fate hinges on Ravena-Alas duo

There are a lot of interesting storylines for each team as we open another PBA season on Sunday, March 8. Several ESPN5.com writers covering the league examine and look at the different PBA teams, highlighting the storyline for each, heading into the 2020 Philippine Cup.


Additions: Rabeh Al-Hussaini (via trade), Anthony Semerad (via trade), Mike Ayonayon (Rookie), Will McAloney (Rookie), AC Soberano (Rookie), Kris Porter (from injury)

Subtractions: Poy Erram, Kyles Lao, Jansen Rios

Holdovers: Kiefer Ravena, Kevin Alas, Mike Miranda, Raul Soyud, Cyrus Baguio, Philip Paniamogan, Paul Varilla, Larry Fonacier, Kenneth Ighalo, JR Quinahan, Jericho Cruz, Bong Galanza, Asi Taulava

The lowdown

NLEX heads into the new PBA season with its vision suddenly changed drastically after losing Poy Erram.

After a lengthy deliberation by the league's trade committee, Erram was shipped to the TNT KaTropa several days ago.

The team had a very promising showing in the Governors' Cup, where they finished as the top seed in the eliminations, but their postseason was derailed two games in by the feisty eight-seeded NorthPort.

One of the reasons why the Road Warriors got ousted in that triple-overtime Game 2 was because Erram was suspended due to a flagrant 2 on import Michael Qualls.

With a bitter taste in their mouths, the team wanted to continue what they had started, especially in a wide-open title chase with the injury to San Miguel's June Mar Fajardo and the sabbatical of Greg Slaughter. Veterans Asi Taulava and Cyrus Baguio's retirements were also postponed to help contribute to a team mixed with young and old.

Guiao says that he will continue to focus on the future, whatever pieces he still has, especially after the team's composition and chemistry took a major hit.

New acquisition Al-Hussaini has not yet reported to the team, while Semerad continues to nurse an injury, so it will be a wait-and-see for the fiery mentor.

"Instead of being negative about it, we just wanna look forward and do what we can do to make the best out of the situation," Guiao told ESPN5. "If we will continue to delve on it and look back, it's a cause for negative thoughts or some demoralization."

However, Kris Porter, who had suffered a serious knee injury in his rookie season, will be of big help to the frontline of the team after impressing in the Road Warriors' preseason games.

Also expected to make some impact is Jericho Cruz, who recently represented Guam in the FIBA Asia Cup qualifiers, where he was one of their key players.

Two rookies, Mike Ayonayon and Will McAloney, have amassed vast playing experience in the semi-pro ranks, and may carry that over to the PBA.

Biggest question: How far will Kiefer Ravena and Kevin Alas take them?

What had been lost in Erram will now be filled by this dynamic backcourt.

The last time the two guards had played in a full conference, the team made their first semifinals stint. Unfortunately, Alas suffered two ACL tears after that and Ravena served an 18-month FIBA-mandated ban.

NLEX is still upbeat with the young and fearless backcourt, and their finish will rely on how the two will perform.

Alas, who had mostly relied on his slashing abilities, continued to work on his craft to become a more well-rounded player. Ravena, meanwhile, is expected to soar higher after a great Governors' Cup stint where he averaged 15.5 points, 5.6 rebounds, and 8.2 assists in the eliminations.

"I feel Kiefer and Kevin are going to peak in the All Filipino. So the slack left by Poy, those guards can pick it up in some departments," said Guiao.