This is the true off-season for the basketball fan when both the NBA and PBA are on hiatus. The MPBL is still there, and it’s getting more interesting, worthy of a full article soon. There is also NCAA Season 95.
However, we need to share some insights on the recently concluded Commissioners Cup, which was really a quality series.
Something special about SMB
At the risk of sounding like a homer, you can’t really argue with the measure of success this team has had in the past few years. There will always be haters and accusations of how bad officiating decides games.
True, there were clear lapses but it went both ways. Also, you can’t blame officiating for a 12-point loss, let along 7-37 (18%) from the three point line. Talk N’ Text also lost the hustle stats: rebounds (51-61) and blocks (7-6) which is usually Tropa’s territory. SMB shot 20 free throws compared to TNT’s 18, so you can see, the calls did not really sway much.
As early as the second quarter, some commentators already noticed that TNT players look winded. It was mentioned that there were air conditioning issues at the Big Dome, but again, that applies for both teams.
A seven-game series was designed to test character and conditioning, not just talent. In the first three games, TNT was clearly the better team, even with the Game 2 escape act of SMB. You could say that game became even more pivotal: had the Ka-tropa won that, it would’ve been a 3-0 advantage.
Instead, that win was like the Beermen’s last strand of hope. They finally got their bearings together, shook off the mentality that they can’t win with Terrence Jones on the floor (so they got too focused on taking him out) and finally played great basketball. When TNT got into unfamiliar territory (they have always been at the top the entire conference, except for losing the twice-to-beat edge against Alaska), they just simply lost their spirits (pun intended).
Are we sure Leo Austria is not a great coach?
Coach Leo Austria will never get enough credit as long as he has this stellar line up. But Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr will tell you, it’s not easy at all. Carrying the burden of the league’s best roster, it’s always championship or bust.
Austria has been criticized for relying on the post too much, in a world where back-to-the-basket centers are being rendered obsolete. But why would he fix a team that won eight out of the last fourteen championships?
This conference was supposed to be their come-uppance with Junemar Fajardo losing his strangle-hold on the Best Player of the Conference award and facing a talented import that they just couldn’t handle. Austria got the team through it, making just the right adjustments.
So many pundits have bashed Austria for being an old-school coach, but his bosses and the SMB fans will continue to cheer him on as long they’re winning trophies.
Terrence Romeo gets his hardware
Another reason why Austria is heavily underrated: the development of Terrence Romeo. Everyone thought adding Romeo to a talented but volatile cast of Chris Ross, Marcio Lassiter (whom the Bro once butted heads with), Arwind Santos among others would be a recipe for disaster. Coach Leo took it in stride.
Getting Romeo meant he will always be scrutinized: “He’s not using him enough,” “He’s using him too much” “He’s not using him the right way.” We’ve heard it all, but in the end, we have a champion Romeo who’s now happy with his role, after being branded as a headcase (by their opponents, no less).
Romeo not only avoided trouble, he flourished within the system of the Beermen. Austria unleashed him at just the right time and huge credits to the Bro for his true resolve to turn things around.
San Miguel Beer seems to have done it all. Come back from a 0-3 Finals deficit- check! Win a title as the 7th seed- check! They’ve overcome slow starts and heartbreaking losses, but even against a Thanos-level import, they were the last team standing.