Caloy Garcia picks NorthPort, NLEX, Alaska as PBA bubble favorites

NorthPort and NLEX are among the teams that Rain or Shine coach Caloy Garcia will watch out for in the PBA bubble. KC Cruz

Rain or Shine coach Caloy Garcia expects NorthPort and NLEX to be the favorites to crowd five-time champion San Miguel Beer once the PBA restarts its Philippine Cup on Oct. 9 in a bubble in Clark, Pampanga.

Garcia said judging from the way the players looked during their recent swab testing, NorthPort looks menacing on paper with Fil-German Christian Standhardinger leading the way, along with Robert Bolick, who has fully recovered from his knee injury.

"Feeling ko dito (in the PBA bubble) ang medyo angat dito right now based on the lineup is yung NorthPort kasi nandun si Christian and then Bolick is back," Garcia told ESPN5 on Friday.

"That combo (of Standhardinger and Bolick) is going to be fun to watch. But you can't count out Alaska because during the preseason, they were playing very good kasi ang ganda din ng buildup nila," he added.

Garcia noted that NLEX can't be counted out as well, considering the Road Warriors will have Kiefer Ravena and Kevin Alas.

The veteran ROS mentor strongly believes the NLEX players will deliver for coach Yeng Guiao, who is known for bringing the best out of his wards.

"(In the PBA bubble) hindi na ito aasa sa seven players lang. We have to use every player para at least healthy lahat and there are teams na I feel can do better kasi like kay coach Yeng, he will maximize his 15 players kasi maganda ang lineup niya," observed Garcia.

Still, Garcia isn't counting his team out considering the Elasto Painters have solid rookies who will add youth and dynamism to their veteran core.

Former Ateneo two-way guard Adrian Wong, San Beda stalwart Clint Doliguez, ex-La Salle banger Prince Rivero and former Far Eastern U big man Vince Tolentino were ROS' draft additions during the offseason.

Upon learning that the PBA was considering to play in a bubble, the ROS mentor said he already secured the permission of management to hold whole day practice for the team, which was divided into four groups.

"More time on court means achieving the goal at least so mostly, what we do per group during practice is ballhandling, shooting and conditioning. More on running kasi ang kailangan para makuha nila ang hangin," stressed Garcia, whose team reached the semifinals of the 2019 PBA All-Filipino Cup.

Meanwhile, Blackwater coach Nash Racela admitted the team is looking forward to the scrimmages to help the players get into better shape.

"Still following PBA protocols and guidelines regarding workouts. (Practice is) very limited at this point that's why we are looking forward to scrimmages to better prepare us for the coming restart," Racela said.

Racela said Blackwater, which already dropped the moniker Elite to give way to "Bossing", is tempering the expectations from his team at this point.

"No practice yet so it's really hard to gauge. But we will do our best to be ready once the league restarts," he added.

The PBA will be using the full bubble format in a similar arrangement of the NBA with players and the pro league's contingent staying at the Quest Hotel in Mimosa.

Pending approval from the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF), PBA teams will enter the bubble on Sept. 26 and will start scrimmages the following day. Two games will be played daily, seven days a week.