Defending PBA Philippine Cup champion San Miguel Beer remains the consensus team-to-beat for the first conference among the league governors during yesterday’s press conference ushering the 41st season Sunday at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
The Beermen are the obvious safe bet after they beat the Alaska Aces in an epic seven-game series in the 2014 Philippine Cup and the 40th season-ending Governors’ Cup via sweep.
“Got to admit the pressure is on us,” said PBA chairman Robert Non, the SMB governor. “Hopefully OK na si June Mar [Fajardo] at makapag-ensayo na ng tuloy-tuloy. On-and-off kasi yung plantar fasciitis niya; ten pounds overweight pa.”
The foot injury was what kept the 6-foot-10 former University of Cebu center from joining the Gilas Pilipinas team that finished second in the FIBA Asia Championship in Changsha, China recently.
Non also said SMB could face strong challenge from Talk ‘N Text, Barangay Ginebra San Miguel, Rain or Shine and Globalport.
After SMB, the Tropang Texters, the Commissioner’s Cup champions, got the most nod on the strength of a drafting coup where TNT landed the top two first round picks in 6-foot-7 Fil-Tongan Moala Tautuaa and 6-foot-7 Troy Rosario from National University in trades with Blackwater and Kia Motors [now Mahindra], respectively.
“TNT has become really formidable in the frontline because of their picks,” said Barako Bull governor Manny Alvarez, who cautioned that the Tim Cone factor can also never be discounted.
“Championship coach and new system, Ginebra has to be favored,” Alvarez said.
Cone took over the Kings from the Star Hotshots during the off-season, merging two of the most high profile forces in the league – Cone as the PBA’s winningest coach and the Kings as its biggest draw.
Rene Pardo, the Star governor whose association with Cone produced a number of championships after Cone’s transfer from the Alaska Aces years ago, picked San Miguel and Talk ‘N Text as the teams to beat, with “my Star Hotshots” and Ginebra as “darkhorses.”
“Baka magalit si Coach Tim,” Pardo said in jest.
Dickie Bachmann, the Aces governor, said Alaska stands to benefit from the Gilas experience of Sonny Thoss, Dondon Hontiveros, Calvin Abueva and head coach Alex Compton, chosen by national coach Tab Baldwin as one of his assistants.
Rain or Shine’s Edison Oribiana believes the Elasto Painters have become “younger, stronger and a little taller,” while the return from brief retirement of 2011 MVP Jimmy Alapag, Meralco governor Ryan Gregorio says, has given the Bolts “a great stabilizer.”
Silliman Sy of Blackwater, Tomas Alvarez of Mahindra and Smart Sports’ Epok Quimpo, representing Talk ‘N Text and Globalport’s Erick Arejola all deferred to ballclubs other than the ones they represent, while Ginebra governor Alfrancis Chua gave Alaska as much chances as San Miguel and Talk ‘N Text “because they have stayed solid.”
Arejola did pitch in for the Batang Pier as a darkhorse because of “our exciting backcourt in Stanley [Pringle], Joseph [Yeo] and Terrence [Romeo].
Rain or Shine faces Star Hotshots in the inaugural game at 5:15 p.m. on Sunday after the 3 p.m. opening ceremony.
Meanwhile, the PBA has approved the late Monday trade which sent Globalport forward Jervy Cruz to Barako Bull for Rico Maierhofer.