Austria’s problem: How to weave CJ into rotation


    SAN Miguel Beer coach Leo Austria faces what other coaches would gladly tackle: How to weave in two-time scoring champion CJ Perez into the team’s rotation.

    It helps that already has some experience in that matter.

    “First, kailangan ma-define muna ang role niya sa team,” Austria said, referring to two-time scoring champion CJ Perez who is set to join SMB after completing his stint with Gilas Pilipinas in the FIBA Asia Cup qualifying window next month.

    “Talagang concern iyon, how to integrate him to the team,” added Austria. “Kasi nga, panibagong ego, panibagong timpla ng rotation. But the good thing about it is, we have the time para ayusin lahat iyon. Hopefully, before the season starts solved na lahat.”

    Perez was officially acquired from Terrafirma last week and will reinforce an SMB team that has a solid nucleus.

    A starting five composed of six-time MVP June Mar Fajardo, Arwind Santos, Marcio Lassiter, Chris Ross and Alex Cabagnot has given the Beermen five straight Philippine Cup titles, earning the players the moniker of “Death Five” from most fans.

    With Fajardo out and other injuries hobbling SMB in the 2020 Philippine Cup bubble in Pampanga, the Beermen relinquished their crown, which was eventually won by Ginebra.

    Management then decided to work out the Perez trade, the latest blockbuster deal entered into by the pioneering franchise after getting Terrence Romeo in late 2018 and Mo Tautuaa the following year.

    Austria has utilized Romeo mostly as a reliever, the same role Tautuaa is expected to play once Fajardo returns as expected.

    The four-time Coach of the Year said he should put a finger on Perez’s role in the team, but first must define it once the former Lyceum star and 2018-19 Rookie of the Year joins the team in practice before the season kicks off in early April.

    “It will depend. During the off-season pa lang malalaman kung sino maganda ang chemistry,” said Austria.

    “Magiging depende rin sa kung sino kalaban. Itong si CJ kapag kalaban halimbawa is TNT, panapat siya kay (Ray-Ray) Parks. ‘Pag Phoenix baka puwedeng itapat kay (Calvin) Abueva. Depende sa matchup na mangyayari.”

    Should Perez come off the bench, he would form an enticing partnership with Romeo in SMB’s backcourt, but that scenario is just an option for Austria.

    “Kapag naghahabol kami kailangan may Terrence-CJ ka sa loob,” Austria said.

    “Pero definitely talagang mahaba makukuha niyang playing time. Pero depende rin sa game. Siyempre, lahat naman ng teammates niya can score.”