THE PBA may yet push back its Philippine Cup opening, but that distinct possibility should not raise expectations about June Mar Fajardo’s return to action.
According to San Miguel Beer coach Leo Austria, Fajardo is back in the gym but is still set to miss the early parts of the season-opening conferences as the prized center has yet to complete the last stages of his rehabilitation that recently suffered another setback.
“Baka maglaro siya sa latter part of the eliminations or possibly sa playoffs, kung makakapasok kami,” Austria told Malaya-Business Insight yesterday.
“Tapos na ang kanyang mga injuries, magaling na lahat,” added Austria. “Kung makikita mo siya ngayon, naglalakad, bale-wala, dire-diretso na. Nag-shu-shooting-shooting na rin siya. But according to our PTs (physical therapists) and doctors, hindi puwedeng biglain iyan dahil mahihina pa ‘yung mga (leg) muscles.”
Fajardo was sidelined by a fractured leg he suffered during practice in early February of last year and sat out the Philippine Cup bubble in Clark. His injury suffered an infection in late December, pushing back his return to practice by another two months.
The PBA is set to kick off the season on April 18, but league officials are now seriously considering moving that back anew due to the recent spike in COVID-19 infections throughout the country.
The PBA had also planned to hold all its games at the Ynares Center in Antipolo, but that has to be revisited too since Rizal Province is among the areas recently placed under GCQ, a quarantine level where mass gatherings like sports-related activities are prohibited.
The PBA Board is set to convene after the Holy Week to plot the league’s immediate course of action.
Such a scenario of the PBA kicking off in late April or early May fanned fans’ hopes of having the PBA’s only six-time MVP back on the playing court.
Austria wants to temper those expectations, saying: “Isang taong hindi naglalaro. Tapos nag-re-rehab na siya na-set back naman ng two months kaya mahirap iyon.
“Iyung fracture above his shin, wala na iyun. Ang kailangan na lang nu’n full support ng muscles around that shin. Iyun ang tinatrabaho, para maibalik ‘yung strength sa mga muscles sa leg na iyon,” added Austria.
“April, doon pa lang siya mag-uumpisang sumabay sa (non-contact) pratices. Pero scrimmage? Hindi pa iyon.”
Austria’s biggest concern now is finding at least two bigs who can fill up the void created by Fajardo’s absence and Billy Mamaril’s retirement.
“Mo Tautuaa, Arwind Santos and Daniel de Guzman lang bigs namin ngayon,” admitted Austria.
“We’re hoping na may darating, probably from among those released by the other teams, pero sa ngayon wala pa.”