It has been a somewhat long time coming that some league fans felt it might not happen at all, but on Friday last week the IATF gave the Philippine Basketball Association the okay to start its 2021 season this coming Friday, July 16. Over the weekend and this week the PBA squads have been preparing for the first of two conferences this season, the Philippine Cup. One team, San Miguel Beer, is cautiously optimistic with its prospects for the initial all-Filipino tournament. The reason: their big man June Mar Fajardo is back after being laid out last year by injury.
Inquirer.net reports that the San Miguel Beermen are confident that their center June Mar Fajardo is good to go for their team when the Philippine Cup of the PBA 2021 season starts at the end of this week. Beermen coach Leo Austria remarks in an interview on Tuesday, July 13, that he sees Fajardo is outwardly already at 100 percent of his playing form, well over a year after a practice injury on his right shin took him out of the pandemic-truncated 2020 season.
League fans in the know are aware that as early as May of this year, June Mar was already recovered enough from his tibia surgery that he could practice shooting with Coach Austria in some sweet recorded footage. But an actual game is something else, and Austria thinks that the first few games San Miguel will be in would serve to help condition Fajardo back to his game-winning “emotional and spiritual state. Once done, the Beermen could start working on another Philippine Cup championship. It would not be six straight, as again June Mar was recovering all of last season, but the chances look rather good.
Without June Mar Fajardo as their center, the San Miguel Beermen did their best at the Philippine Cup of an extremely short season under an anti-COVID bubble environment. In elimination they won 8 games and lost 3, before they were given the boot at the quarterfinals by the Meralco Bolts. It is a good thing then that the pandemic shut down PBA games for as long as they did according to San Miguel team manager Gee Abanilla. “One thing positive we got from the prolonged lockdowns and restrictions is that players were able to heal properly,” he says, referring not just to Fajardo but other “battle-damaged” Beermen like Terence Romeo, Chris Cabagnot and many more.
Season 46 of the PBA starts July 16 at the Ynares Sports Arena in Pasig, with a whopping three inaugural games, but with no spectators to avoid COVID spread. The regular season will until August 27, with playoffs following until the championship games in October.
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