Defending champion San Miguel Beer begins its quest for a fourth consecutive All-Filipino title as it clashes with Phoenix at the start of the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) Season 43 Philippine Cup today at the Araneta Coliseum.
The Beermen, winners of the last three PH Cup crowns, and the Fuel Masters, to be handled by new mentor Louie Alas, collide at 6:30 p.m. right after the traditional opening ceremonies at 5 p.m.
San Miguel has been tagged as one of the teams to beat in the conference mainly because of the presence of four-time Most Valuable Player (MVP) June Mar Fajardo and a slew of veteran players led by Arwind Santos, Marcio Lassiter, Alex Cabagnot and Chris Ross.
Head coach Leo Austria said they are clueless against Phoenix and hopes his mainstays can carry the fight for his depleted roster.
“We always want to win in our opening game but right now we still don’t know the strengths and weaknesses of other teams. So, we are just preparing hard this conference because we are the barometer of other teams this season,” said Austria.
The Beermen have signed the No. 1 pick in this year’s draft Filipino-German Christian Standhardinger but they have to wait for a while as the six-foot-eight center needs to finish his commitment with the other league.
The acquisition of Standhardinger cost San Miguel three players – Jay-Reyes, Ronald Tubid and Rashawn MacCarthy. And the injury of Gabby Espinas (leg) and David Semerad (viral infection) forced them to sign Billy Mamaril, Chico Lanete and rookie Louie Vigil.
“We’re not yet in top form but I think we will be there in two or three games,” Austria added.
The Fuel Masters made a lot of changes in the off-season after signing up Alas, who replaced Ariel Vanguardia, and the team tabbed Jason Perkins as their fourth overall pick.
“I’m super excited but the same time pressured because our first game is against the defending champion San Miguel,” said Alas, who returned to coaching in the PBA after his last stint with TNT KaTropa in 2001.
“We can’t engage them in a shootout because they have lots of scorers. We just have to contain them,” added Alas, who just acquired Jaypee Mendoza from Alaska in a trade last Friday.
Meanwhile, Ms. World-Philippines Laura Lehmann of TNT leads the list of muses in the opening ceremonies. Also in the roster are Myrtle Sarrosa of Ginebra, actress Rhian Ramos of Phoenix, volleyball star Rachel Ann Daquis of Northern Luzon Expressway and model actress Ashley Ortega of Blackwater.