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No grand slam talk this time for all-Filipino champions

05:01 AM May 22, 2019

It’s a question San Miguel Beer never had problems dealing with in the past. As the Philippine Cup champions of the PBA, the Beermen had been—for the last five seasons—the only squad with a shot at a Grand Slam.

And with their talent-rich roster, the Beermen have looked capable of pulling off a triple crown for the past few seasons.

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After winning a fifth straight All-Filipino crown—a league record that tightened the Beermen’s stranglehold on the league’s prized jewel—San Miguel isn’t talking Grand Slam anymore.

“What we’re thinking about is (winning) the next conference,” said coach Leo Austria in Tuesday’s Philippine Sportswriters’ Association Forum at Amelie Hotel.

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“Everybody wants a grand slam, but we have to win another championship in the second conference,” added Austria.

Charles Rhodes, the former Best Import awardee who steered the franchise on top of the Commissioner’s Cup in 2017, will shoulder a lot of the burden this conference—and he looks up to the task.

“This conference, there are much better imports, more skillful. It’s just another challenge for me,” said Rhodes in the session presented by San Miguel Corp., Braska Restaurant, and Pagcor.

“I feel like every game is going to be competitive,” he said. “I just want to help the team. I don’t want to think toward the Finals. I know if we play hard and have a lot of love, we’ll be in the Finals, and then we’ll go from there.”

That Rhodes-powered title was the closest the Beermen came to a Grand Slam, before they were ambushed in the semifinals of the Governors’ Cup by sister team Ginebra.

“We know the consequences of thinking about the Grand Slam, and that means you’re pressuring yourself,” said Austria. “After winning seven championships, why would I pressure myself?”

San Miguel is actually celebrating the 30th anniversary of its 1989 Grand Slam behind a team composed of four-time MVP Ramon Fernandez, Samboy Lim, Hector Calma, former MVP Ricky Brown and current team assistant coach Ato Agustin, among others.

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The return of Rhodes gave Austria the confidence San Miguel will be in the running for back-to-back championships.

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TAGS: Philippine Cup champions, Sports
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