Cone wary of Fajardo, Beermen as series begins
WHEN Tim Cone talks, people listen. And believe him, too.
Cone had declared a few days ago that the Beermen are “the team to beat.”
So, for all intents and purposes, this half of the Final Four series of the PBA Governors’ Cup pitting his Barangay Ginebra crew against San Miguel Beer will ultimately crown the season-ending champion.
“No offense to Talk ‘N Text (TNT KaTropa, the No. 1 seed), but San Miguel is the team to beat,” Cone said on Friday night after his Gin Kings sealed a best-of-five clash with the rock-solid Beermen, starting at 7 p.m. Monday, at Smart Araneta Coliseum in Cubao.
San Miguel and Ginebra finished the eliminations at 8-3 but the Beermen are still tagged as the favorites in this semifinal pairing with June Mar Fajardo going unchecked and import Elijah Millsap jelling well with the locals and rounding out to top shape.
With Ginebra’s 7-foot Greg Slaughter out for the remainder of the year, Cone is trying to device “creative ideas” on defense to stop the 6-foot-10 Fajardo, who is on track to nailing a record third straight season MVP award.
“If we had Greg, we have the option to leave him one-on-one (with Fajardo),” Cone said. “But we obviously don’t have Greg and that is a problem. We need to be creative defensively to stop him.”
One thing going for the Kings is they have, hands-down, the finest import in Justin Brownlee as well as a rejuvenated LA Tenorio, who will be ranged against a battery of crack Beermen point guards led by Alex Cabagnot and Chris Ross.
Brownlee, who replaced the Kings’ injured first import Paul Harris, is doing his thing minus the fanfare.
Former MVP Arwind Santos, Marcio Lassiter and Ronald Tubid are the other guns that San Miguel coach Leo Austria can lean on at crunch time.
Japeth Aguilar has been performing well but Cone knows that he cannot depend on the 6-foot-9 leaper to put the clamps on Fajardo when needed.
“Japeth is just undersized compared to June Mar,” Cone said.
San Miguel’s Leo Austria, meanwhile, is trying to pound one thing in the mindset of his mighty Beermen.
“We need to play defense,” Austria said. “We cannot win a championship without playing defense.”
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