A first-option star in his old team, Perez will have to earn minutes with SMB | Inquirer Sports
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A first-option star in his old team, Perez will have to earn minutes with SMB

/ 05:20 AM March 13, 2021

CJ Perez brought with him to San Miguel Beer (SMB) some sterling individual achievements. Two scoring titles. A Rookie of the Year trophy.

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They mean squat to Beermen coach Leo Austria. As far as the multititled coach is concerned, Perez will have to earn his minutes with the squad.

“Remember what happened to Terrence Romeo? When he arrived at this team, he was not a starter. He had to earn that slot,” Austria told reporters over the weekend during the PBA Press Corps Awards Night.

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Romeo, a star wherever he played, certainly earned his spurs before cracking San Miguel’s core rotation in 2019. He immediately cornered his share of the minutes when it mattered the most, helping the Beermen to an unprecedented fifth straight all-Filipino title.

“There’s always a question (of minutes) whenever we get a new player, considering the pedigree of our [holdovers],” Austria said.

Austria, however, said Perez, the former Lyceum star in the National Collegiate Athletic Association who was acquired in a trade from perennial league doormat Terrafirma, is off to a great start as far as finding his niche in San Miguel is concerned.

“He has been with us for at least two weeks now. So far, so good,” Austria said in Filipino.

“Having him has been a delight because he’s very observant, very into details. And whenever we run drills, he’s quick to pick things up,” he added.

Perez’s addition adds another dynamic to San Miguel’s offense, which was often centered on having June Mar Fajardo camp down low and waiting for the defense to gather around him before spotting an open shooter or cutter. Like Romeo, Perez is a creative scorer who can liven up an offense when it starts stagnating.

“I’m sure that CJ will become a very important part of this group,” Austria said.

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“This time, we know that there are a lot of players who have become better. Then there are plenty good ones coming from the draft,” he added. “It’s going to be exciting.”

Meanwhile, Barangay Ginebra coach Tim Cone is confident his old ward Greg Slaughter is going to thrive at NorthPort.

“I honestly think Greg is going to kill at NorthPort,” he said in an interview over the weekend. “We kind of pigeonholed Greg because of our system and with what we wanted out of him. We really didn’t give him the freedom he wanted,” the Grand Slam mentor added.

Slaughter figured in a one-on-one trade for the Batang Pier’s do-it-all star Christian Standhardinger, which has given both clubs what they wanted: the big man of their liking.

Ginebra gains an extremely mobile and tireless player in Standhardinger, which should complement Aguilar’s play style. NorthPort, on the other hand, acquires what coach Pido Jarencio wanted all along: a 7-footer who can intimidate down low.

The swap, according to Cone, should also afford Slaughter the “opportunity he has never had in his career.”

“If you give him that freedom, he’s just going to post those tremendous numbers,” he said. “He’s going to look really, really good.”

“I think he’s primed for it. Talking to him, seeing the energy he has come back with during his break. I think he’s primed for a huge breakout,” Cone said.

“Sayang lang, it’s just not going to happen with us.”

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TAGS: Basketball, CJ Perez, PBA, San Miguel Beer (SMB)
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