When the dust finally settled last Sunday at the Araneta Coliseum, after the San Miguel Beermen triumphed over the TNT KaTropa to claim the 2017 PBA Commissioner’s Cup trophy, one question remained:
Will San Miguel win the Governors’ Cup and complete a Grand Slam?
The quandary seemed inevitable, even predictable really. It was bound to be asked. For the last three years under the coach Leo Austria era, the Beermen have been a titan in the league, vanquishing foes left and right. The Commissioner’s Cup was always missing the missing in their quest for glory, and now that they’ve finally won that elusive chip, all eyes are now centered in the last conference of the season.
But the question whether or not the Beermen can win the final piece of their puzzle is a tricky one. It’s complex. It’s difficult. And simply giving a hot take just won’t cut it. So instead of trying to predict if the Beermen will complete their Grand Slam campaign, let’s go over a criteria for forming a Grand Slam team.
Let’s try these questions:
Does San Miguel have all the tools to win their third straight championship?
Obviously, this is a resounding and loud YES. Barring any crazy injuries, the Beermen have more than enough talent to take over the Governors’ Cup.
They have the perfect balance of outside shooting, dominating post play, aggressive defense, and good old fashioned championship swag.
Are the Beermen selfless enough and are they willing to sacrifice for the better good?
Again, YES. Check out this quote from Commissioner’s Cup Best Player of the Conference Chris Ross after last Sunday’s game:
“It’s all about sacrifice, sacrificing for the guy next to you. Just like Arwind (Santos), Arwind was the MVP of this league a few years back and he’s coming off the bench now. He’s really the x-factor of this series. Alex was used to playing on the ball and now he’s going into more of a scoring role. We’ve really built a great relationship, not just me and Alex, but all the guys. Winning helps a lot but we genuinely like each other. There’s no bad blood in practice, everyone wants to go to practice because we’re happy to see each other. We play music every day in practice, we just try to make the atmosphere fun.”
Ross was named BPC and if it weren’t him, Alex Cabagnot would have won. And guess what, Alex did win an award by being named Finals MVP. June Mar Fajardo, as much as he is talented, wasn’t even close in winning any awards last conference. They’re so talented and so selfless.
If you’re going for the Grand Slam, is having a once-in-a-generation type of player needed?
When SMB won a Grand Slam back in 1989, the team had Ramon Fernandez, a winner of three MVP awards.
More than two decades later, the franchise now has June Mar Fajardo right smack in the center of their championship reign. Honestly, as much as the 2017 Beermen have all the talent in the world, they won’t be as successful without having Fajardo. He’s morphed into a Tim Duncan or Shaquille O’Neal type of guy, not in the physical and dominating sense, but as long as he’s healthy, the Beermen always, and I mean always, have a chance of winning night in and night out. Fajardo is a winner.
How important is having a good import for San Miguel?
Charles Rhodes became the ultimate teammate for the Beermen last conference. He had the skill and the talent, but more importantly, he didn’t become a nuance or a pain in the ass for his team. He was only one of four imports in the Commissioner’s Cup who were there since the start of the conference. He was that reliable to the team.
As for the Governors’ Cup, San Miguel has tapped the services of Wendell McKines. And at this point, as long as he knows his role and provide whatever the team needs, San Miguel can win again.
“I told him the pressure’s on him now. The pressure’s off my back,” Rhodes said of incoming reinforcement McKines. “I’m a champion, so I ain’t gonna (worry about that). But yeah, I just gave him encouragement. And he’s going to get the job done; he’s a hard worker.”
Can anybody else stop the Beermen?
Of course, it’s still anyone’s ball game come July 19 when the Governors’ Cup kicks off. The Meralco Bolts can surprise some teams as well as fan favorite Barangay Ginebra, both of which battled in last year’s Governors’ Cup.
But at this point, their chances of winning rests on their hands, more than anybody else’s. Even as teams gang up against them, it’s still SMB’s title to lose at this point.
Plus, the Beermen know that everything won’t come easy for them.
“Next conference, sinasabi nila na mag-champion kami, pwede kami mag-relax, hindi ganun. Lalo kaming ginagahan, kasi maliban sa gumaganda yung sumahan namin, nakukuha namin yung history, isa yun sa nagpapagana,” Arwind Santos shared. “Kahit na sabihin mong one week lang kami mag-practice sa next conference, andoon parin yun. Ang sarap pala mag-champion talaga, ba’t hindi natin gawin palagi?”
So, will the Beermen win again?
The San Miguel Beermen certainly have what it takes to make history. Probably the main takeaway from the players last Sunday was that they know the importance and the gravity of winning a third straight title.
“That’s always the goal for us, every conference that we get ready for, anything less than a championship is a failure,” Ross pointed out. “We know the task that is coming up, not a lot of teams have been able to win that Grand Slam and we’re one championship away. Just like these last two conferences, we’re gonna go in and prepare, work hard. We know the Grand Slam is really hard to get but we’re up for the task.”
Can the Beermen win a Grand Slam? We just have to wait and see.