PBA: Welcome problem at San Miguel with OJ getting better and Muhammad in town
MANILA, Philippines–The import situation at San Miguel Beer remains up in the air, and for coach Leo Austria, the situation the team is at now is a welcome problem.
With Orlando Johnson shaping up as a nice fit and playing well, the Beermen welcomed Shabazz Muhammad on Tuesday as Austria practically has two reliable weapons he can decide on as the elimination round of the PBA Governors’ Cup enters its critical stages in the next few days.
“What we’re looking at is to keep improving the team,” Austria told a few reporters at Ynares Center on Wednesday night on the heels of grind-out 104-99 victory over tough-as-nails Phoenix Super LPG where Johnson spearheaded the team for the second straight night.
“Going into the playoffs is a different matter. If you’re in the top four, you’d have the luxury of the twice-to-beat. Wind up in the middle (of the pack) and you’re facing a twice-to-beat opponent. So every player we could bring to beef up the team, whether we could use him or not, [is a welcome development],” he said.
The tactical approach, Austria said, was borne out of the uniqueness of this pandemic-stricken era.
“This is the first time we’re having imports during the pandemic,” the decorated mentor sad. “So this (having another import on standby) is our luxury today.”
Muhammad, originally set to backstop Meralco, practiced Tuesday. According to a couple of Inquirer insiders, members of the team were stunned by the development as Johnson, a PBA veteran who once served crowd darling Barangay Ginebra, is well-loved by the players.
And that goes for the San Miguel coach as well.
“I like him and love him a lot—OJ,” said Austria. This player is very coachable and attitude-wise (has been fine). The players really love him because he’s easy to get along with.”
Johnson has won two of his last three games with San Miguel, and for his part, remains positive amid the uncertainty hovering over his stint with the team.
“My teammates make my job a lot easier. We got a lot of players who can make plays and stuff like that. So I just go out there, keep on competing and let everything fall into place’ as they should,” Johnson said after the win over the Fuel Masters.
If anything, he’s glad to have Muhammad—a pal—around.
“I’m happy for him. I’m happy for these guys, if that’s what they decide to do,” Johnson added. “I respect all these guys and I really enjoy playing with these guys.
“Unfortunately, sometimes, [some things] just go like that,” he went on.
San Miguel has three more teams left to play in the classification phase, including two pacesetters in unbeaten Magnolia and Meralco.
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