MVP, All-Filipino now up for grabs
The record sixth straight most valuable player award is a cinch for June Mar Fajardo, but not the sixth consecutive Philippine Cup title many had conceded to San Miguel Beer with the 6-foot-10 SMB tower of power going for MVP No. 7 in the coming 45th season of the Philippine Basketball Association.
With another dominant performance last season, the 30-year-old Fajardo is expected to be honored with another MVP plum during the Leo Prieto Awards on March 1 for the standouts of 2019 that also saw SMB topping the Commissioner’s Cup before Barangay Ginebra capped another big show by the SMC organization by ruling the Governors’ Cup.
Fajardo gets to relish his latest achievement during the opening ceremony preceding the SMB-Magnolia season opener. Then he assumes his new and unexpected role as chief rooter on the bench for the Beermen, no thanks to a fractured right shin he suffered in practice last Monday and was operated on the next day.
No timetable has been set for his recovery, but without Fajardo, the Beermen will surely miss the best player of the last Philippine Cup who averaged 20 points and 13 rebounds. Further underscoring his worth, he didn’t miss a game in 2019 and averaged 18.9 points and 13 rebounds in 61 outings.
The Beermen, who needed seven games to beat the Hotshots in the title playoffs last year, remain a title contender with Mo Tautuaa, now taking over Fajardo’s slot, expected to get solid support from veterans Chris Ross, Alex Cabagnot, Terrence Romeo, Marcio Lassiter and Arwind Santos.
But Barangay Ginebra has emerged as the main title prospect this time with 6-9 Japeth Aguilar, even with 7-footer Greg Slaughter taking a break from the PBA, as he announced on Saturday night. New recruits Stanley Pringle and Jared Dillinger will be there to boost the Gin Kings’ firepower.
In another development, Aguilar and 6-8 Christian Standhardinger of NorthPort have begged off from joining Gilas Pilipinas in its opening campaign in the Fiba Asia Cup qualifiers against Thailand and Indonesia later this month.
The recently married Aguilar is going on a delayed honeymoon, which he postponed to play for Gilas in the last Southeast Asian Games and for Ginebra in the finals of the Governors’ Cup against Meralco.
Standhardinger, the former backup of Fajardo, sought more time to further recover from a nagging left knee injury that bothered him last year. Fajardo was intentionally left out of the national squad earlier to give him enough rest following his hectic 2019 schedule.
To be handled by interim coach Mark Dickel, Gilas takes on Thailand on Feb. 20 and Indonesia on Feb. 23. INQ
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