Austria believes there won’t be clear PH Cup favorite in PBA restart

San Miguel Beer may have won the only game played in the PBA Philippine Cup before the pandemic shuttered sports all over the world, but Beermen coach Leo Austria believes the long break caused by the health crisis has put all the teams on equal footing should the 45th season resume in October.

Much like the 11 other ball clubs in the PBA, Austria said his team was all set for another round of swab testing—the first step of the PBA restart—before resuming its practices, until the government placed Metro Manila on modified enhanced community quarantine last week.“We actually oriented our players on the protocols that we have and our practice venue was also being readied to hospital standard sanitation for the resumption of our workouts,” said Austria, whose team has won eight championships in the last six seasons. “But of course, we have to wait again. We’re still hopeful that there will be at least one conference [before the year ends]. Our players are just raring to play.”

Austria said that should the season restart, there won’t be any clear-cut favorites as all the teams will be on the same phase in their conditioning and preparations—or the lack of them—because of the monthslong lockdowns.The Beermen won the only game played in the All-Filipino conference, a 94-78 drubbing of the Magnolia Hotshots in the season opener on March 9, as the league was suspended three days after with the virus blowing up the country.

It wasn’t until early this month when a joint administrative order signed by the Games and Amusements Board, the Philippine Sports Commission and the Department of Health allowed professional teams to conduct workouts in areas under a general community quarantine (GCQ) setting.

“The teams will be allowed to practice [under GCQ] and of course we can work on conditioning with only a limited number of players on the court at a time, but being in game shape is always different,” Austria said. “There’s no substitute to being in game shape. So I think that puts everyone on equal footing going into the planned restart of the season.”

The Beermen will actually miss June Mar Fajardo for the remainder of the year as he recovers from a shin injury, opening up the championship race to other teams.

Fajardo is on track with his recovery, but Austria wants his prized big man to be 110 percent first before he gets back on the court.

“His recovery is on track and he’s doing well with his rehab, but as much as possible I want him to be a 110 percent before he plays again,” Austria said.

Austria said he has kept tabs on his players during the quarantine period. And although it has taken them longer than usual to get back to the court, the Beermen were in unison as far as their motivation is concerned.MVP offers sympathies

Meanwhile, Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas chair emeritus Manny V. Pangilinan offered his sympathies to Hagop Khajirian, the Fiba executive director for Asia and CEO of the Fiba Asia secretariat, following the two huge blasts that rocked Beirut last Tuesday.

“It was with great sadness when I learned about the most regretful explosion in the Port of Beirut,” Pangilinan said in an emailed letter addressed to the Lebanese Fiba Asia official on Friday.

Pangilinan, now on his second term as Fiba Central Board member, added: “I join the people of your city, and the people of Lebanon, in their hour of grief and suffering, and send to them our prayers and our thoughts.” INQ

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