Recuperating Fajardo won’t join Beermen in bubble restart
MANILA, Philippines — San Miguel’s giant of an advantage in June Mar Fajardo won’t be making it in the PBA bubble, leaving the other 11 teams an open chance to ultimately break the franchise’s five-year run atop the Philippine Cup.
Beermen head coach Leo Austria said on Saturday that Fajardo won’t be joining them in Clark and would rather stay at home to continue his recovery from his injured right shin.
“He won’t be joining us in the bubble because we don’t want to disrupt his rehab process especially since he’s doing well on his own and his in high spirits right now,” said Austria in Filipino in a phone conversation with Inquirer Saturday.
“He’s not in the lineup and he’s understood the situation.”
Fajardo, the Finals MVP of the past two Philippine Cups, is the only six-time PBA MVP and has been the most dominant player during San Miguel’s stellar run in the All-Filipino Conference.
His absence, Austria said, levels the playing field as the rest of the competition seeks to end SMB’s reign.
“We don’t have June Mar and every team is excited because they know how open this race is,” said Austria, who led the Beermen to eight titles from 2015 to 2019. “Without June Mar their chances all got better.”
Despite Fajardo’s absence, Austria said the Beermen are still capable of securing their sixth Philippine Cup.
San Miguel won the season’s first and only game so far with a 94-78 victory over sister team Magnolia with the Beermen banking on the play of center Moala Tautuaa, who put up 20 points and 11 rebounds.
That game alone, Austria said, gave the Beermen the confidence they needed and it’s in this morale-boosting victory that they will look to build on heading into the season restart in Pampanga.
“After a few games you can size up the teams, see what their strengths and weaknesses are,” said Austria. “We’re still really capable of winning a championship. The players are confident and they agree that the chance is always there.”
“We’re capable and one of our advantage is the experience of the players.”
San Miguel is still one of the most stacked teams in the league with 2013 MVP Arwind Santos, Alex Cabagnot, Chris Ross, Marcio Lassiter, Terrence Romeo, and Tautuaa all more than capable of leading a squad into a deep playoff run.
Despite missing Fajardo, Austria couldn’t help but make fun of the situation.
“The people allowed inside the bubble are all essential personnel and if he’s there he’ll just be a display. And he’s too big the bubble might pop,” said Austria laughing.
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