By Waylon Galvez
San Miguel Beer head coach Leo Austria expressed confidence that with additional days of rest, veteran guard Chris Ross will be ready to play more minutes in the PBA Philippine Cup finals starting next week.
Ross hurt his right thigh in Game 3 of SMB’s semifinal series against Barangay Ginebra San Miguel, and although he played in the last two games, Austria only gave him limited minutes.
“Naka-laro siya pero hindi pa siya ganung ka-ok,” said Austria. “Ilang minutes lang ang linaro ni Chris kasi hindi pa naman talaga siya nakaka-recover sa injury niya.”
After the team clinched the first finals slot with a 100-94 win in Game 5 last Saturday, the Beermen will have at least a week before the start of the best-of-seven finals series.
That is because the other semifinal affair between NLEX and Magnolia Hotshots Pambansang Manok is tied at 2-2, with Game 5 set Sunday night at Ynares Center in Antipolo City, while a potential Game 7 is scheduled Thursday at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
“May additional kami na five days, so malaking bagay sa amin yung lalo kay Chris. Pwedeng humaba yung preparasyon namin for the finals kung aabot iyung kabilang series sa Game 7,” said Austria.
Ross, one of Austria’s main players in his superb ‘starting unit’ that has reigning four-time MVP June Mar Fajardo, Arwind Santos, Alex Cabagnot and Marcio Lassiter, is averaging nearly 12 points per game this conference with six rebounds and seven assists.
Playing in the finals, especially in the Philippine Cup, gives Ross additional motivation and that is evident in his two Finals MVP the last two seasons for the 10-year pro.
“Alam naman nating lahat kung ano nadadala ni Chris sa team, and mas umaangat yung level of play niya kada lumalaro kami sa finals, lalo sa all-Filipino conference,” said Austria.
“So in this finals, hopefully maging ok na si Chris. Malaki naman tiwala ko na magiging ok siya kasi sa ngayon pa lang nasa 80 to 85 percent na siya e. So yung extra days na pahinga, malaking bagay,” added Austria.