WHO’s going to dominate this season in the Philippine Basketball Association?
That’s the big question now that San Miguel Beer and Barangay Ginebra will be without their respective big men in June Mar Fajardo and Greg Slaughter in the kickoff Philippine Cup and probably the rest of the 25th season.
The past five seasons had always been the Beermen and the Gin Kings being installed as teams to beat, with the former living up to the expectations for having won the last five editions of the prestigious conference.
Now, the Beermen are in for what their board representative in Robert Non openly declared as ‘their toughest conference’, all because of the absence of the lumbering 6-foot-10 Cebuano who has no clear idea on when he could play because of his right shin injury.
“For the last five PBA press conferences, lagi San Miguel ang favorite, okey naman. Nanalo ang San Miguel. This year ito na pinaka-mabigat,” said Non during yesterday’s launching of the league’s 45th season at the Forbes Ballroom at Conrad Hotel.
“The last 5 championships June Mar was there. Namimis namin si June Mar one, two or three weeks, but this time he can’t come back in second conference or even in third conference dahil matindi injury,” revealed Non.
“So kailangan talaga mag step-up team namin dahil wala si June Mar, and hopefully Mo Tautuaa can fill up the big shoes left by June Mar,” added the SMB governor.
“Eto na siguro yung pinakamahirap na season sa San Miguel, but still we’ll be there fighting,” he added.
The Gin Kings will also be without Slaughter whose association with league’s most popular remains in limbo after failing to renew his contract which had expired last January 31.
Other teams, however, believe SMB and Ginebra remain the teams to beat, but are not discounting the big possibility of seeing a wide open race in the Philippine Cup.
PBA chairman Ricky Vargas of Talk ‘N Text said the Tropang Texters are doing fine and would be in the thick of things this season in their bid to rebound from forgettable stint last season.
“Sa umpisa lang kami magaling perso sa huli palpak. We wish everybody well this season. We’ll be there fighting,” said Vargas.
PBA Vice chairman Bobby Rosales of Columbian Dyip aired his sadness over the loss of Fajardo and Slaughter, but just like other teams officials, SMB and Ginebra still cannot be taken for granted.
“Kahit wala si June Mar and Greg Slaughter malakas pa rin ang dalawang teams. So it will still be a challenge to all the other teams when we face them,” said Rosales.
All the other board representatives were present yesterday, including Blackwater’s Silliman Sy (Treasurer), Ginebra’s Alfrancis Chua, NorthPort’s Eric Arejola, Al Panlilio (Meralco), Phoenix Fuels’ Atty. Raymod Zorilla, Alaska’s Dickie Bachman, Rain or Shine’s Atty. Mert Mondragon, and Magnolia’s Rene Pardo, as well as commissioner Willie Marcial who had been given a fresh three-year contract by the board.
Meanwhile, Vargas and Marcial is also seeing 2020 as a big turnaround for the league in terms of viewership in social media, especially in YouTube.
According to Marcial, the viewership in social media increased by 20% last season, and that the league intends to take advantage of the situation by monetizing other platforms, including YouTube.
The season opens on March 8, a Sunday, with the Beermen and the Magnolia Hotshots colliding in a one-game affair at 7:30 p.m. blasting off the Philippine Cup at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
The game will be preceded by the 44th Leo Awards starting at 4:30 p.m. before the opening ceremonies.