TNT coach Bong Ravena is convinced the absence of the injured June Mar Fajardo does not make San Miguel Beer any less dangerous in the coming PBA Philippine Cup.
While naming the Beermen first among the teams to beat in the season-opening conference, Ravena also mentioned NorthPort and Magnolia as similar big hurdles the KaTropa must overcome to end a six-year title drought in the tournament.
“Actually, NorthPort ‘yung team to watch. Intact sila and with (Christian) Standhardinger.
In fact, No. 1 center ngayon is Christian so hindi sila mahina,” Ravena told Malaya-Business Insight yesterday.
“Without Fajardo, pabor sa lahat. But iyung ibang teams na may malalaking lineup iyun ‘yung teams to watch. Maybe NLEX, may Magnolia pa,” added Ravena.
The same cannot be said of TNT, according to Ravena.
“Si Kelly lang masasabing big namin. J-Wash (Jay Washington) is more of a 4. Baka si Troy (Rosario) ilalagay namin sa gitna. We’re not really big.”
While trying to solve that riddle, Ravena is keeping an eye out for SMB, which is determined to win a sixth straight championship in the Philippine Cup despite the absence of its 6-foot-10 prized center.
“Malaking bagay for us na wala ‘yung Fajardo but we won’t take them lightly,” noted Ravena.
“Even without Fajardo it doesn’t mean they’re weak. Siyempre, San Miguel pa rin iyan, beterano na rin sa laro. We won’t take it easy. Hindi naman namin puwedeng maliitin iyan kasi siyempre San Miguel pa rin iyan, experience-wise.”
Ravena also took some time to wish Fajardo well.
“While injuries are a part of basketball, he is such a big part of the PBA,” Ravena said of Fajardo. “I wish he was healthy and playing as you want to beat each team at its best. I hope for a quick recovery for him.”
The five-time season MVP was operated on Tuesday last week after suffering a fracture on his right tibia during practice the day before and is expected to be out at least five months.
The remaining healthy Beermen have become even more determined while announcing they are dedicating their coming campaign to their gentle giant.
“As any member that goes down… we kind of just want to get that next-man-up mentality,” said SMB top gunner Marcio Lassiter. “Obviously, he’s a huge, huge guy to fill a role and he’s been winning all the MVPs for a reason. He’s been that dominant.
“But I do feel we have plenty of talent. Guys here can step up, but I know we have to do this as a team, collectively. That’s what’s gonna be interesting.”