Aguilar’s health key for Ginebra vs Fajardo, San Miguel in finals
Barangay Ginebra managed to scrape past Rain or Shine in four games in their best-of-five semifinals series with one of its key cogs Japeth Aguilar logging limited minutes due to an injury.
Gin Kings coach Tim Cone, however, admitted his team needs Aguilar to be in a much better condition against the defending champions San Miguel Beermen in their finals showdown beginning Friday night.
“Japeth is not healthy. That’s the key. You could tell, I think everybody can tell he’s not explosive, he’s not getting down the floor a lot, he is trying his best to get ready and play and he’s trying to give me little minutes here and there and they really contribute,” Cone told reporters after Ginebra ousted top seed Rain or Shine, 96-94, on Monday night.
“But unless we can get him back to near 100 percent it’s gonna be a struggle for us against San Miguel.”
The Elasto Painters are a relatively big team with the hefty big men Reggie Johnson and Beau Belga and lanky center Raymond Almazan up front, but the Beermen possess greater challenge with reigning four-time MVP June Mar Fajardo and versatile forwards Renaldo Balkman, Arwind Santos and Christian Standhardinger.
Add mid-conference acquisition Kelly Nabong, who is more than willing to do the dirty work, and San Miguel is overflowing with frontcourt talent.
Cone will still have 7-foot Greg Slaughter at his disposal but he knows having a healthy Aguilar, who missed the first two games against Rain or Shine and played only an average of 14 minutes in Games 3 and 4 due to a foot injury, makes a big difference.
“Greg is great and Japeth is great, but they’re much better together. When you have them both on the floor, when you have them coming in for each other, you don’t lose anything,” Cone said. “But you end up over extending one of them when the other one is injured.”
“So we’ll do what we can, trainers will do what they can and I think Japeth is gonna continue to give us minutes here and there but that’s really a prime question for us in terms of Japeth’s health.”
But regardless if Aguilar regains his top form or not, Cone is confident Slaughter will be able to hold his own.
“He’s got June Mar coming up and Balkman at times and It’s gonna be a challenge for him (Greg), but I think he’ll be up to the challenge.”
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