They’re back! After three years of being missed, the name San Miguel Beermen is once again in the PBA. It might just be a name-change but this could be the best move of the franchise over the conference break. The name San Miguel Beermen has experienced championships and success in different leagues and different eras. Can this bunch carry on the legacy?
Coming into the Philippine Cup, the then Petron Blaze Boosters were fresh from what could be called an upset defeat in the 2013 Governor’s Cup Finals. Everyone expected them to bounce back strong with June Mar Fajardo leading the charge. True enough, they boosted out of the gates and started the PhilCup with a streak of wins. Then Fajardo got hurt. With that, the team was hurt as well. They started losing games and looked lost without their premier big man.
They would find a way to get back on track, though. Just in time, too. They earned a 3rd place finish in the elims and breezed through the quarters to meet Rain or Shine in the semis. There, the Boosters’ fall began. Again, they started looking confused on the court. It seemed like they only had one gameplan – feed June Mar. It worked for some time. But when Coach Yeng checked it already, they still kept going there. Obviously, they should have done something else.
Additions: Coach Biboy Ravanes, Sol Mercado, Rico Maierhofer
Subtractions: Alex Cabagnot, Jason Deutchman
Alex Cabagnot was undoubtedly a key guy with Petron. He paved the way for many wins by taking over crucial situations. But they always fell short of a championship. Something had to be done. Unfortunately, Alex was the chosen one. He was shipped for Sol Mercado.
Many Beermen fans were against the move. They said Sol will be the “ballhog that he is” and will hinder the maximization of SMB’s powerhouse line-up. I believe otherwise. See, Sol was never really on a championship contending team. And his previous squads, he had to be the main man. He forced shots because he had too. Look at how he played when Terrence Romeo, another scorer, played alongside him last conference. DId he try to prevent Romeo from scoring? No. He even mentored the youngin.
Merc isn’t all about his own game. He was coerced to it. With numerous options in his new team, expect him to play facilitator. Expect a deadly, and I mean deadly, pick-and-roll game between Sol and June Mar. Aside from that, Sol’s ability to get right at the rim will be essential. Life will be much easier for Fajardo because of that.
Let’s not forget about the addition of Rico Maierhofer, too. They got a scrappy, versatile forward who can play the 3 or the 4. This allows Arwind to play the high post without leaving a hole in the paint. At least, now, there’s a guy on this team who will actually try to go after loose balls and 50-50 possessions. They have been needing the puso factor for a long time. Rico can provide that.
On paper, Josh Boone is easily the most impressive among the initial imports in the Commissioner’s Cup. He was drafted 23rd overall by the New Jersey Nets in the 2006 NBA draft and played four years in the league. And while his stint didn’t jump out of the box, it’s nothing to be ashamed of either. In his sophomore year, at 23 years old, he averaged 8.2 points and 7.3 rebounds while playing alongside Jason Kidd, Vince Carter, Richard Jefferson and Devin Harris. Oh, and Stromile Swift, too, in case you cared.
However, Boone admits that he is still in the process of adjusting to the timezone and climate of the Philippines. In their preseason game against Barako Bull, he put up a rather disappointing display. He racked up 16 points only while counterpart, Josh Dollard, posted 41. But hey, that was the preseason.
You know what bothers me? This situation seems familiar. Remember the last time this franchise brought in an NBA first rounder, best-on-paper import? I bet you do. Yup, Renaldo Balkman.
Oh geez. Please, no déjà vu.
Provided the drama was left behind with the Petron name, things should look up for the Beermen. They have a new guard who opens up a lot of opportunities for them. They have a new lengthy forward who brings to the table something that has been missing from this team. They have a new coach. And most of all, they have a new name – one that associates itself with something much better than a telenovela.
A finals appearance wouldn’t be too far from reach for SMB. But saying they’ll win the championship is speaking far too soon. You can’t deny that it’s possible, though. Given that this team is stacked and has three of the top 10 players in the league right now, not making the semis should be considered a disappointment.
Photos by Paolo Papa of Sports5.ph, Jesse D. Garrabrant of Getty Images, and from June Mar Fajardo’s Instagram