By JONAS TERRADO
Game Today (Smart Araneta Coliseum)
7 p.m. – San Miguel vs Ginebra
Defending champion San Miguel and Barangay Ginebra San Miguel begin their best-of-seven semifinal series in the PBA Philippine Cup tonight with the question of whether Greg Slaughter would be available to play the role of great equalizer against reigning four-time Most Valuable Player June Mar Fajardo.
Slaughter remains doubtful for the 7 p.m. contest at the Smart Araneta Coliseum due to an ankle injury that prompted him to miss the Kings’ quarterfinal sweep of the Rain or Shine Elasto Painters.
Coach Tim Cone is hopeful that his 7-foot center, who also dealt with a hamstring problem during the midway point of the eliminations, can suit up and resume his decade-long rivalry with fellow Cebuano Fajardo.
“We just hope we don’t fall too far behind without him, whether he can make an impact,” said Cone. “That’s the big thing for us, whether Greg can play. That would really help us equalize San Miguel. He’d be the great equalizer.”
Fajardo is coming off a dominant showing in San Miguel’s 106-93 quarterfinal victory over TNT KaTropa Tuesday at the Mall of Asia Arena when he scored 35 points on 15-of-19 shooting.
But Ginebra has shown that it can be successful defending Fajardo even without Slaughter as evident in their lone elimination round meeting last Jan. 28 that saw the Kings prevailing, 100-96, at the Big Dome.
The Kings came back from a huge deficit in the first half with seldom-used Raymond Aguilar and Jervy Cruz sharing the role of containing Fajardo, whose 33 points and 11 rebounds in that contest went for naught.
Japeth Aguilar is also seen as another key factor in the series despite dealing with a back problem. The 6-foot-9 veteran had 27 points, 12 rebounds and three blocks in Wednesday’s series-clinching 99-91 win over Rain or Shine.
Meanwhile, Terrence Romeo will remain a member of the GlobalPort Batang Pier until the foreseeable future after a trade proposal with TNT KaTropa was reportedly rejected by the PBA yesterday.
Sources said the league thumbed down the proposed deal that would have sent Romeo to the KaTropa with the Batang Pier receiving former No. 1 draft pick Mo Tautuaa.
GlobalPort’s Brad Guinto, a serviceable big man, was said to be involved in the proposed trade.
Both teams are expected to go back to the trading table, hoping to get a better deal which some observers see as one-sided.
Romeo had privately sought to be traded, particularly to a title-contending team, after a series of early playoff exit since being drafted by GlobalPort in 2013.
Trade talks resurfaced during GlobalPort’s quarterfinal loss to Magnolia Tuesday at the Mall of Asia Arena when Romeo and coach Pido Jarencio had to be separated after a shouting match in the third quarter.