Simmons gets clearance to suit up for NLEX. But will he stay?

NLEX import Jonathon Simmons makes his PBA debut. –PBA IMAGES

Whether he stays or he bolts, NLEX’s focus is now just making the most out of import Jonathan Simmons.

That’s the way skipper Kevin Alas framed the Road Warriors’ situation following a 124-102 beatdown of Blackwater on Wednesday that had the club opening its PBA Governors’ Cup campaign on a resounding note.

“We’re just looking to enjoy every moment that Jonathan is with us. He might leave us, he might stay. If ever he just plays four games, we’ll try to get all the wins that we could get within that stretch,” Alas told the Inquirer shortly after shooting a career-high 31 points and helping the Road Warriors at Smart Araneta Coliseum in Cubao, Quezon City.

TNT held it together in the stretch to pull out a 123-119 win over Phoenix in the second game.

Jalen Hudson led the Tropang Giga with 34 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists.

1-2 punch

“He’s NBA-caliber. And you all saw that earlier. As far as we’re concerned, we’re just trying not to lose focus as things like that happen and are beyond our control. We all just have to deliver,” the soft-spoken Alas said of Simmons, who ahead of NLEX’s campaign netted a lucrative contract in China.

The NBA veteran, who had his best time with the San Antonio Spurs, finished with 32 points, nine rebounds and seven assists that complemented Alas’ brilliant night.

The pair figured prominently in the payoff frame, combining for 29 points that helped NLEX outscore the enemy by nearly twice as much, 40-21.

“I was pretty confident he could play,” NLEX coach Frankie Lim said of Simmons, who reportedly secured clearance from a Chinese club to continue playing for the Road Warriors just hours before the game.

“One thing I like about Simmons is he was honest with me. I really appreciated that,” Lim went on. “When he said he has to go to China to play, I told him to first finish his contract here, maybe he can give us four wins before [he leaves].”

Nothing definite“I can’t stop him, because there’s big money involved. There’s also a chance that he might stay longer and that was what I was told earlier,” he added.

Simmons, for his part, said that NLEX fans could expect him in the next game against NorthPort set this Saturday in Antipolo City. But he was also unable to provide anything definitive on the duration of his stay with the Road Warriors.

“I don’t know man, I leave that stuff up to management. I just came to play basketball, but I’m glad it worked out so I can play and lead this team to the win,” he said. “We’ll see what happens.”

He did tip his hat with how capable his teammates are, even going as far as giving pointers on how to forge ahead in the season-ending conference.

“We just need to do better on defense. I think our defense is going to help our offense’s momentum going forward, so mostly learning each other’s spots and getting more chemistry on the defensive end and then it’s gonna be hard to beat us,” he said.

Blackwater put up a fight in the first three quarters, all thanks to the returning Shawn Glover and the now-fit locals Baser Amer and Yousef Taha. They all finished in twin-digits like the young Ato Ular.

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