Fajardo returning? Yes, but temper expectations

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    AUSTRIA
    AUSTRIA

    TEMPER your expectations.

    San Miguel Beer coach Leo Austria couldn’t help but stress this yesterday amid reports that prized center June Mar Fajardo is fit and ready to play in the coming PBA season.

    “There’s no guarantee na once na nandiyan na ulit si June Mar we’ll readily reclaim the (Philippine Cup) championship,” Austria told Malaya-Business Insight.

    “Of course, we’re very happy to have him back and ‘yung presence lang niya would be a big boost to the morale of the team,” added Austria. “But we have to keep in mind that there would be a lot of factors involved, maraming variables that we can’t foresee so ang mind-set namin should be one of a wait-and-see first.”

    Austria issued the comments after San Miguel Corp. sports director Alfrancis Chua announced that Fajardo has been cleared to return to action by renowned orthopedic surgeon Dr. Raul Canlas.

    “He’s OK. We’re expecting him to play next conference, next season,” Chua was reported as saying. “He’s also expecting (to play). His wounds would still require attention, maybe because of hygiene. But the leg itself, Dr. Canlas already gave the go signal to play.”

    Fajardo suffered a leg fracture in practice last February, forcing him out for the entire 2020 season ultimately limited to the Philippine Cup that was played in a bubble in Clark, Pampanga and topped by Ginebra.

    Without its six-time MVP and with Terrence Romeo also suffering a shoulder injury early in the tournament SMB got only as far as the quarterfinals where it blew a twice-to-beat advantage against Meralco.

    Ginebra coach Tim Cone was among the first to welcome the news about Fajardo’s return.

    “Happy to have (June Mar) back in the league (and) ready to play,” Cone said on Twitter on Sunday. “Always a tremendous challenge.”

    That could also be the reason why Cone is intent on regaining the services of Greg Slaughter, whose relationship with the team’s brass soured and went on a sudden sabbatical just days after Fajardo sustained his injury.

    The seven-foot Slaughter has since cleared the air and expressed remorse over the “miscommunication” with Kings’ management brought about by his move.

    Chua said he is amenable to sit down with their former center to “hear his reasons out.”

    Austria cited Slaughter’s probable return as one of the reasons he prefers a cautious approach.

    “Very distinct ‘yung possibility na bumalik si Slaughter and then the other teams sigurado magpapalakas din ang mga iyan through the draft na wala kaming picks in the first two rounds,” Austria pointed out.

    “Plus, di natin alam kung game-shape na si June Mar,” added Austria. “We must remember na mahigit siyang one year na di naglalaro kaya pagbalik niyan wala pa sa timing, ‘yung rhythm niya off pa. It will take time.”