IF GINEBRA intends to prolong its newfound reign in the PBA Philippine Cup, it must first deal with two big questions.
According to Kings coach Tim Cone, one of their priorities before the start of their title-retention bid is to get back Greg Slaughter, a move that assumes additional importance with the projected return of a healthy and reinvigorated June Mar Fajardo to the San Miguel Beer fold next year.
“We’re hoping to get Greg back. I think that would be huge for us,” Cone said during a recent podcast of the Power and Play program hosted by Noli Eala.
“Like I’ve said, I hope we will get Greg back at some point, and June Mar will come back and we’ll be able to battle them (Beermen) toe-to-toe,” added Cone.
“But June Mar still has a big say on who the big boys are.”
As SMB coach Leo Austria recently related, Fajardo is well on his way to fully recovering from the leg injury he suffered in early February and even promised to come back stronger in the coming season.
“Babawi tayo next time,” was how Austria quoted the six-time MVP as saying in a recent chat after the end of the Beermen’s five-year reign in the import-less tourney that usually kicks off the season.
Slaughter helped Ginebra reclaim the Governors’ Cup crown last January. After his contract expired and amid talks he would be traded to NorthPort, the seven-footer took a break from the PBA and left for the US.
Even without Slaughter, Ginebra managed to win the recent Philippine Cup in the Pampanga bubble by going mostly with Japeth Aguilar and Prince Caperal at center.
Aguilar averaged 15.6 points, 8.3 rebounds, and 1.4 blocks in 22 games, ending his campaign with 32 points, nine rebounds, and three steals in the title-clinching Game 5 of the finals series against TNT.
Caperal also rose to the occasion and averaged 7.8 points on an impressive 42% clip from three-point range to go with 3.9 rebounds.
Cone, though, will not pass up on the possibility of Slaughter returning, a deal that should be worked out before the projected start of the next Philippine Cup in April.
“I would love to have Greg back on the team. That would help Japeth out in terms of giving him a break and we could be a little bit more creative in the way we play. We get Greg back and move forward to the All-Filipino.”
That explains why Cone maintained a guarded stance when asked if Ginebra is set to dominate not only the Philippine Cup but the entire 2020-21 season.
“If you ask me if this is a breakout for us, well, I think June Mar Fajardo will have something to say about that,” said Cone. “We’ll just enjoy it while we can.”