Tony Bishop Jr. has been a mainstay of Team Panama. —FIBA.COM

One of the first clubs to identify its import, Meralco on Sunday became the first to do a change.

With plans to bring in NBA veteran Shabazz Muhammad for the PBA Governors’ Cup fizzling out because of a “family emergency,” the Bolts on Sunday announced that Panamanian Tony Bishop Jr. will be suiting up for the season-ending conference tentatively set to start on Dec. 5.

“We wish Shabazz the best in dealing with his family matters, and we are looking forward to welcoming Tony Bishop as our import for this conference,” team manager Paolo Trillo said in a statement released to media outlets.

Meralco will still have a seasoned player in the 32-year-old Bishop, a 6-foot-6 forward who has had stints in Germany, Japan, Romania, Lithuania and Denmark, among others, while being a national team mainstay.

He last played in Puerto Rico, helping the Mets de Guaynabo to the championship series.

There, Bishop put up 16.6 points and 7.9 rebounds over the course of 34 games, playing as one of the club’s three foreign reinforcements.

Not a downgrade

The Texas-born Bishop also played alongside Renaldo Balkman, the Puerto Rican standout who also suited up for multiple Filipino clubs in the past, including San Miguel Beer. Meralco, thrice the runner-up in the last four editions of the Governors’ Cup, opted to go with Muhammad as resident import Allen Durham is currently playing for the Ryukyu Golden Kings in the Japanese B.League.

Muhammad would’ve been quite the pick for a Meralco side looking to go all the way in the season-ending showcase. He was, after all, a first-round pick during the 2013 NBA Rookie Draft and provided decent numbers for the Minnesota Timberwolves.

A member of the Panamanian national team, Bishop may seem like a bit of a downgrade, but that remains to be seen. He was reportedly also one of the talents scouted by the Meralco management ahead of the conference.

Norman Black has yet to respond to the Inquirer’s request for comment as of press time, but the decorated coach said in a previous interview that he is looking to rely heavily on his rejuvenated local crew—perhaps as a workaround for not having its old reliable in Durham. INQ

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