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by Tito S. Talao

JUNEMAR Fajardo and Beau BelgaGames Today (Smart Araneta)
5:45 p.m. – Air21 vs Barako
8 p.m. – Petron vs Globalport

Manila, Philippines – Greg Slaughter, this season’s top rookie pick, provided everybody a glimpse of what he is all about last Sunday. Now June Mar Fajardo, the No. 1 draft choice the year before, gets to reintroduce himself to PBA fans.

The four ballclubs which sat out the unprecedented three-region, six-team 39th season inaugurals make their debut today in the PLDT myDSL-PBA Philippine Cup at the Smart Araneta Coliseum, with the 6-foot-10 Fajardo, who dominated the latter part of the past season with Petron Blaze, hoping to make a good impression so as not to get eclipsed this early by Slaughter, Barangay Ginebra San Miguel’s prized draft.

Petron takes on Globalport at 8 p.m., while Air21 and Barako Bull clash at 5:45 p.m.

Opening games held in three different venues saw Rain or Shine clobber Alaska, 87-74, at the University of Southeastern Philippines gym in Davao City, defending champion Talk ‘N Text blast Meralco, 89-80, at the New Cebu Coliseum, and Barangay Ginebra spill San Mig Coffee all over the Big Dome, 86-69.

Six of the 10 rookies tabbed in the first round suited up on opening day, with Slaughter and James Forrester drawing applause for Ginebra, Ian Sangalang for San Mig Coffee, Ryan Buenafe for Alaska, and Raymond Almazan and Alex Nuyles for Rain or Shine.

Globalport gets to parade against Petron the two rookies it received in trades with Barako Bull for the 5th (Terrence Romeo) and 6th (RR Garcia) picks, as well as its third first rounder, 7th overall Isaac Holstein, acquired in an eventual post-draft exchange with San Mig Coffee.

Bannering Petron, other than Fajardo, are 2013 MVP Arwind Santos, Comeback Player of the Year Marcio Lassiter, Chris Lutz, Alex Cabagnot, and Chris Ross, traded by Globalport for Denok Miranda.

Veteran center and back-to-back MVP Danny Ildefonso reportedly got embroiled in an internal dispute with Boosters management and was left unsigned after his contract expired last month.

Eric Menk, the former Ginebra star and 2004 MVP, makes his debut with Globalport and adds muscle and experience to a starting lineup that has Jay Washington, Sol Mercado and Leo Najorda.

Collegiate stars Romeo, Garcia, Justin Chua, 2nd rounder Nico Salva, and 3rd rounder LA Revilla could make an immediate impact if the situation calls for an emergency response from the bench of former pro Richie Ticzon, who makes his maiden coaching appearance after taking over from Junel Baculi.

In the curtainraiser, Air21 and Barako Bull meet in an early collision of dark horse teams.

The Express, who took a blow with the injury to hook shot specialist Mark Cardona, will be led by PBA Most Improved Player KG Canaleta, Joseph Yeo, Wynne Arboleda, Renren Ritualo, and ageless Asi Taulava.

Taking up the cudgels for the Energy Cola, who let go off veteran Danny Seigle, the 2000 MVP, are comebacking Willie Miller, a two-time MVP himself, Mark Isip, Mick Pennisi, 3-point king Mark Macapagal, Dorian Pena, JC Intal, former Ginebra forward Willy Wilson, Jonas Villanueva, and Denok Miranda.