It took a long time, but on a surprising Saturday afternoon, it became official: Kiefer Ravena is going to be a Lakestar.
Now the PBA has finally given the green light for "The Phenom" to join Shiga and play in the Japanese B.League, the question becomes: how will this impact the NLEX Road Warriors, his current club competing in the ongoing 2021 Philippine Cup?
If head coach Yeng Guiao is to be believed, the drawn-out complications regarding Ravena's status has, and had, no effect at all.
"I already said that even before (the PBA's approval), the team itself was not distracted. It was still the same for us," he shared after he and his wards improved to 2-2 last Sunday. "Of course, now, the tension, the uncertainties are at ease, but that issue did not have any effect on the whole team whatsoever."
Alongside granting clearance to play abroad, the PBA also clarified that Ravena will have to finish up the ongoing conference before he can take his talents to the Land of the Rising Sun - where, unlike previous times, he will be the one following in the footsteps of younger brother Thirdy.
Now the air has finally been cleared among the PBA, NLEX, and Ravena, just exactly what's next for all of them?
The Road Warriors have done a great job stockpiling talented players who make sure they compete in each and every game. Their backcourt of Ravena and Kevin Alas is one of the most explosive duos in the league, scoring-wise. They also have lots of depth, with Jericho Cruz and Don Trollano providing energy and toughness, as well as JR Quiñahan and Raul Soyud bringing the pain in the frontcourt.
But for whatever reason, it just hasn't clicked the way a lot of people expected it to. Chalk it up to the league as a whole getting better, or perhaps some moves that have impacted their overall roster, but it's quite befuddling to see NLEX off to another slow start, having just gotten back to .500.
Is there enough time to right the ship? Without question. There are new players like top rookie Calvin Oftana and even Trollano who will have to assimilate into the system sooner than later. With Ravena's impending departure, though, the need to fast-track the process ramps up even further.
Speaking of the eldest son of Bong and Mozzy Ravena, losing a player of his caliber next conference will obviously be a tough pill to swallow. After four games, he is averaging team-highs in points (15.8), assists (6.5), and steals (1.8), on top of 3.8 rebounds.
Even advanced stats attest to his strong start to the season - his PER (Player Efficiency Rating) of 29.5 is top 10 in the league and his offensive rating of 117.4 illustrates his ability to score from all over the floor.
While he's always had a knack for scoring, he has also fully embraced the role of being NLEX's primary playmaker, giving ample opportunities for wide open looks to his teammates. Thus, players like Alas and Soyud have flourished early on this conference.
Once that all-around force leaves for a while to play in the B.League, it will be on Alas to step in his place.
"As of now, Kevin already has a big responsibility because he's our team captain," detailed Guiao. "When Kiefer's no longer here, naturally, he (Alas) will have a bigger responsibility. But I don't want to burden him that much, most of that burden has to be divided among the other players."
"Not just Kevin. Guys like Jericho, Don, even Calvin - these guys will get the chance to step up when that happens," he continued.
That remains something that will happen in the near future, however. For now, the Road Warriors remain laser-focused on securing a playoff spot.
Ravena is in vintage form and is always ready to take on the responsibilities for a superstar like him. But the clock is ticking.
"We will just savor and enjoy Kiefer's presence while he's here. We'll cross the bridge of determining what to do without Kiefer when we get there," explained the fiery mentor. "We don't want to think about life without Kiefer because we just want to continue enjoying him contributing to the team."
Most definitely, Ravena will continue contributing to NLEX and its quest to return to the playoffs. Most definitely, he will be even more determined to elevate his game now that both the PBA and the Road Warriors have given him their blessing to explore beyond the Philippines.
Just like his coach and his teammates, it's time for us to take in the sights of his talents while he's still here. For sure, he's out to leave a lasting mark before making Filipinos proud as an Asian Quota Import for the Shiga Lakestars.