Joshua Smith has slimmed down, but the American import still provided the hulking presence TNT Katropa had badly needed.
The bulky, six-foot-nine Smith made an impact in TNT Katropa's 123-95 dismantling of Columbian Dyip in the PBA Commissioner's Cup on Friday at the Mall of Asia Arena. TNT grabbed a share of the lead with Rain or Shine with identical 5-1 win-loss tally.
Although still trying to get the hang of playing with his teammates, the returning reinforcement managed to churn out 11 points on a perfect 5-of-5 field goal to go with three rebounds in a little over 13 minutes inside the court.
Smith, who sneaked into the country during the All-Star break, was naturally happy to reunite with the team he led to the finals in the same conference last season.
"It's always good. First game back, and you get a win. I'm glad we pulled it out," he said at the end of the match at the Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City.
"I'm playing with some new guys, playing with some guys I played with last year, but all that matters is we won. We'll go to practice tomorrow, fix up some stuff, what we got to work on, and get ready for NLEX on Sunday."
Before flying to the Philippines, Smith played a full season in Japan. Smith is obviously not in the best shape yet. But given more time, who knows? He might steer the team to the finals anew.
If that happens, TNT coach Nash Racela is keeping his fingers crossed Smith is healthy for the finale unlike what happened last year when the team succumbed to eventual champions San Miguel Beermen with Smith hobbling with a foot injury.
"Physically he seems healthier now, his foot has really recovered, it's good for us," Racela said.