PBA: Grand Slam talks resurface for SMB

Published April 9, 2018, 12:00 AM

by manilabulletin_admin

San Miguel celebrates after winning the PBA Philippine Cup Finals Game 5 against Magnolia at Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay, April 6, 2018 (MB photo | Rio Leonelle Deluvio)
San Miguel celebrates after winning the PBA Philippine Cup Finals Game 5 against Magnolia at Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay, April 6, 2018 (MB photo | Rio Leonelle Deluvio)

by Waylon Galvez

San Miguel Beer mentor Leo Austria understands the expectations of most basketball observers that after their dominant performance in the Philippine Cup, people talk once again of a possible Grand Slam.

Austria’s squad came short of doing that the previous season after they won the PBA’s first two conference titles but were eliminated in the quarterfinal playoffs in the Governors’ Cup.

However, this season could be different.

That is because Austria’s powerhouse roster led by reigning four-time PBA MVP June Mar Fajardo will finally have Christian Standhardinger, the 6-foot-9 top pick in last year’s PBA Rookie Draft.

“Hindi maiwasan na mapag-usapan ng ibang tao yung tungkol sa Grand Slam” Austria said yesterday, just a day after SMB bagged a fourth straight Philippine Cup championship against Magnolia Hotshots Pambansang Manok at the Mall of Asia (MOA) Arena in Pasay City.

“Ang sinasabi nga e after naming manalo ng apat na sunod na Philippine Cup, dadating naman sa team namin si Standhardinger, na totoo naman na magpapalakas pa sa team namin,” Austria said.

San Miguel claimed its 28th overall PBA championship and eighth overall in the Philippine Cup – or All-Filipino conference – with a 108-99 win in Game 5 against Magnolia.

It was the team’s sixth title in six finals appearances under Austria – who started calling the shots for San Miguel in 2014 – and they will defend another title anew in the Commissioner’s Cup.

The veteran coach, though, mentioned that having a strong team doesn’t mean an automatic championship, as he pointed that other PBA teams will do everything to stop them from winning.

Austria mentioned a few teams that have an equal opportunity in the mid-season conference.

“Anjan ang Meralco na binalik si Arinze Onuaku, and alam natin kung ano ang nagawa niya para sa koponan niya nung huli siyang luamaro dito. Magnolia malakas din with Vernon Macklin and TNT with Jeremy Tyler. Of course anjan din ang Ginebra,” he said.

“So halos lahat ng teams malakas, hindi mo masasabi,” Austria added.

San Miguel will have Troy Gillenwater as import, a 29-year-old Boston native who played in Greece, Russia, Japan, Turkey, and recently in Korea. Austria describes his new reinforcement as a stretch four and five.

“He plays forward-center, but based on his performance during a few times he joined the team in practice, he can knock down shots from the perimeter and even from three-point area,” said Austria.

“The reason why we got him as import is because of his perimeter shooting.”

“We have two big guys already in June Mar and yun nga parating na sa amin si Christian, so we need an import who can shoot from outside but can mix up as well sa loob,” Austria added.

Standhardinger is still under contract with his Hong Kong-based ball club in the ASEAN Basketball League (ABL) and with the playoffs ongoing, Austria expects him to be with the team at the start of their campaign in the Commissioner’s Cup that begins April 22.

Austria is giving his team a three-week rest as he scheduled San Miguel’s resumption of practice session on April 22 since their game next conference is expected to be in the second week of May.

“There is still time for Christian to join us in practice once he’s done with his obligation with his ABL team. Of course, I’m excited na padating siya, pero may halong pressure dahil halos lahat ang inaasahan e mag-champion uli ang team,” said Austria.

“But that’s a good problem for us. Let’s see. Basta kami ang lagi kong sinasabi sa team, let’s take it one game at a time, and basta every game, we’ll give it our best,” added Austria.