MANILA, Philippines – Rain or Shine brought Reggie Johnson in for him to steer the franchise back to the promised land.
And if the American import’s track record is any indication, the Elasto Painters are bound to win their first PBA championship since the 2016 Commissioner’s Cup.
The 6-foot-10 Johnson has been a proven winner everywhere he went.
He helped the SPM Shoeters Den Bosch clinch the Dutch Basketball League title in 2014 before heading to Southeast Asia to reinforce the Westports Malaysia Dragons to the ASEAN Basketball League championship in 2015 with the World Import Most Valuable Player award to boot.
And now in the PBA, Johnson is not settling for any less.
“Coach Caloy (Garcia) and his staff brought me in for a reason. Everywhere I’ve been, I was able to be a winner. Everywhere I played professionally, I won a championship,” said Johnson.
With Johnson, who is averaging 24.3 points, 17.5 rebounds, 4.0 assists and 1.5 blocks, in the fold, Rain or Shine – a team that finished at 5th place in the recent Philippine Cup – has transformed into the league’s best team.
Boasting a 9-1 card, the Elasto Painters are already assured of the top seed and the twice-to-beat incentive heading into the quarterfinals even with their elimination round campaign yet to finish.
“I’m just trying to stay level-headed and lead my team as far as I can. That’s my biggest thing, as far as the imports are concerned – lead my team the furthest,” Johnson said.
But Rain or Shine’s No. 1 ranking might soon become a double-edged sword if one of the traditional powerhouse squads – the San Miguel Beermen, Barangay Ginebra or the Magnolia Hotshots – land at 8th place.
All 3 teams remain dangerous despite being at the lower echelon of the league.
The Beermen are the defending Commissioner’s Cup champions, the Gin Kings play inspired basketball during the playoffs, while the Hotshots are finalists in the Philippine Cup.
Still, Johnson remains unfazed.
“At the end of the day, if it’s San Miguel, if it’s Ginebra, if it’s Columbian, we still got to play them regardless,” he said.
“It’s just a matter of getting ready to find out who we got to play, for me. I don’t shy away from nobody. I make sure my teammates are ready to go, not afraid of nobody, no matter who it is.”
Johnson and Rain or Shine aim to keep their spirits high heading into the playoffs when they face the TNT KaTropa on July 7 at the Araneta Coliseum. – Rappler.com