You want our All-Pinoy Cup title? Come get it: Leo

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    AUSTRIA: We’re the usual target.
    AUSTRIA: We’re the usual target.

    EVERYBODY’S welcome to try and take San Miguel Beer’s PBA Philippine Cup crown, especially Ginebra.

    So said coach Leo Austria, who added the Beermen’s desire to carve an even more special niche in the league’s annals and the challenge openly hurled by the Kings only serve to further stoke the fire under his team.

    “Any coach in the PBA talagang target team kami dahil naka-five-peat na kami (in the Philippine Cup),” Austria told Malaya-Business Insight.

    “‘Yun talaga goal ng bawat coach,” added Austria. “What more si (Ginebra) coach Tim (Cone). Dahil iyung team naman niya talaga namang contender. Any conference, contender iyon.”

    Immediately after Ginebra annexed its third Governors Cup title in the last four seasons last Friday, Cone declared that their sights are now focused on the Philippine Cup, which starts March 1 to kick off the league’s 45th season.

    “We are certainly going to go for it,” said Cone, who admitted getting some prodding from guard LA Tenorio.

    “LA came up to me and said, ‘We got to win in the all-Filipino. I haven’t won an all-Filipino yet.’ I think he is going to get everyone keyed up to win,” related Cone.

    Cone also believes the Kings are now better equipped to wrest the Philippine Cup.

    “We feel like we have the tools. We are going to have a substantial break so we will be able to kinda recharge our batteries and get keyed up for the all-Filipino,” said Cone, specifically referring to Stanley Pringle, Japeth Aguilar and Greg Slaughter.

    “Stanley’s there as an anchor for the team. Japeth and Greg, they kinda take a step back usually when the imports come but it’s their time to step forward,” said Cone. “I think we will have exciting rookies that are coming to the team and I think we will be a more complete all-Filipino team.”

    Austria said such a challenge should only be expected. “Understandable naman kasi everybody is hungry for the All-Filipino crown,” he said.

    “Everybody wants to stop us, that’s normal,” added Austria. “Lalo na Ginebra. During their championship run nakita ang potential ng team and personally, I think, capable naman sila. Maganda inilaro nila, siyempre iba na aambisyunin nila.”

    But the motivation to win a sixth straight Philippine Cup crown is built-in for SMB.

    “I hope ma-realize din namin kung ano ang importance nito para sa amin. Six-peat, mahirap ng matumbasan iyan,” noted Austria, adding the Beermen’s failed bid to realize a Grand Slam in the last season acts as additional spur.