TNT import Joshua Smith fought through an injury in Game 4 of the PBA Commissioner’s Cup semifinals – and his team greatly appreciated his effort.
In fact, his gutsy performance in the closeout game against Ginebra on Saturday could have earned him an extension on his playing stint here.
Despite the foot injury that caused him to miss the entire second half of Game 3 and some stretches of this one, Smith finished with 18 points and five rebounds in 22 minute of action.
And now that the KaTropa are headed to the finals, TNT coach Nash Racela isn’t closing the door on the possibility of keeping Smith on board for the best-of-seven title series against the San Miguel Beermen.
“There’s a possibility for anything,” Racela said, referring to the chance of Smith to continue suiting up for TNT in the championship round.
His teammates paid tribute to him for Game 4, wearing tape with his No. 34 on their jerseys to show gratitude for his decision to play through the foot pain that forced him to sit out most of the previous game.
That choice earned him praise from the KaTropa, including from his head coach.
“What is really crucial is Joshua Smith. He sacrificed a lot for this game. I know he’s hurting, but I really don’t know to what extent, but knowing how important this game is, he decided to play,” Racela said.
“He said ‘Coach, I’m hurting, but it will hurt me more if I don’t play.’ That’s the heart of a champion. For that, we’re so thankful for Joshua.”
TNT has already brought in a standby import in Mike Myers, who averaged 16.8 points and 8.7 rebounds while playing in the Italian League. He was watching behind the TNT bench at the Cuneta Astrodome on Saturday and could be tapped to fill in for Smith.
But with the best-of-seven finals not yet slated to being until Wednesday, the KaTropa could use the next few days to rest and recover, which could mean an improvement in the condition of the banged-up Smith.
“We will rest tomorrow (Sunday). I think starting the playoffs, we’ve been continuously playing 14 days – games and practices.”
TNT will play San Miguel in the title series for the first time since the classic 2011 Governors’ Cup battle they had when SMB (then known as Petron), defeated them in seven games and denied them a chance at a historic Grand Slam.