MANILA, Philippines – Vernon Macklin will always welcome a return to the PBA.
Macklin, who suited up for the Magnolia Hotshots for the last time after just 4 games in the Commissioner's Cup, will be heading to China's National Basketball League.
But he is not closing his doors on another tour of duty in Asia's first pay-for-play league.
"Always," said Macklin when asked if he is open to coming back to the PBA. "Like I said, this place always has a special place in my heart."
Expectations were high for Macklin as he joined Magnolia as an import.
The 31-year-old steered Barangay Ginebra to the finals of the mid-season conference in 2013 and the Hotshots brought him back to the PBA 5 years later where he did the same for them.
"Five years ago, I started with Ginebra and even here the fans are great, the teammates are awesome, the coaching staff is very... everybody shows you love out here so I'm always open to come out here and get back in the PBA."
Macklin has risen to the occasion to meet those expectations by leading Magnolia to 3 straight wins after a sorry loss in their conference-opener.
And in his final game, he steered the Hotshots to victory in dramatic fashion.
The former NBA player made the game-winning free throws to cap his 21-point and 15-rebound performance in Magnolia's thrilling 81-79 triumph over the Meralco Bolts on Friday, May 18.
"It feels great winning any game. But you know, for this to be my last game, with these guys in this conference, to actually leave on a good note and get a win, it feels great," said Macklin, who averaged 21.0 points and 13.3 rebounds in 4 games.
While the former NBA player admitted it's "tough and emotional" to leave because of the relationship he built with the Hotshots, he said there is a mutual understanding between him and the team about his decision.
"They understand as well as I understand that I have a situation that I have to take care of me and my family."
The Hotshots will have two weeks to acclimate their new import to their system before facing the Rain or Shine Elasto Painters on June 2 at the Araneta Coliseum. – Rappler.com
Delfin Dioquino dreamt of being a PBA player, but he did not have the skills to make it. So he pursued the next best thing to being an athlete – to write about them. He took up journalism at the University of Santo Tomas and joined Rappler as soon as he graduated in 2017.