Powerhouse San Miguel Beer is tipped to have a tough time when it marches to the 45th season of the Philippine Basketball Association on 1 March.
Beermen’s head coach Leo Austria said the season-opening Philippine Cup will never be easy as all teams are preparing in a bid to dethrone them.
Barangay Ginebra will be coming in with a solid and intact roster powered by the core of Japeth Aguilar, LA Tenorio, Stanley Pringle and Scottie Thompson while TNT KaTropa will have seasoned playmaker Jayson Castro leading a young squad that has RR Pogoy and Troy Rosario.
NorthPort is also looking to contend with the addition of Christian Standhardinger, the Best Player of the Conference of the Governors’ Cup, together with Sean Anthony, Kevin Ferrer and Jervy Cruz.
The Beermen, for their part, struggled with their chemistry last conference.
Things came to a head when Arwind Santos and Ronald Tubid figured in a brawl with their import Dez Wells and Filipino-American Kelly Nabong.
San Miguel immediately sent Wells back to the United States while Nabong was traded to NorthPort in exchange for Russell Escoto, who enjoys great chemistry with Santos.
Still, it wasn’t enough as Austria was vocal in stressing that everybody on the team, probably except five-time Most Valuable Player June Mar Fajardo is on the trading block.
“This season will be very tough for us,” Austria said. “We were lucky last season because even if we landed sixth and seventh in the playoffs, we still managed to make it to the finals.
“But this time, teams are all motivated to beat us. We’re not making any major changes. All we do is to prepare hard physically and mentally.”
Austria, an eight time champion coach said he is glad that other teams are motivated to beat them.