San Miguel head coach Leo Austria said that the delays in the PBA Season 46 opener due to the circumstances brought about by the ongoing pandemic have given June Mar Fajardo more time to recover from his leg surgery.
The six-time Most Valuable Player’s camp admitted back in March that he suffered a minor setback in his recovery but that, apparently, is a thing of the past already, as the decorated mentor is pleased with his progress.
“Si June Mar, alam naman natin ‘yung kanyang situation nagkaroon ng setback. But because of this lockdown, mga delay, so naka-recover siya,” Austria told Radyo5’s Power and Play, Saturday.
Fajardo, 31, is expected to return this season after more than a year of inactivity due to the gruesome shin injury he suffered during a team practice, causing him to sit out the Beermen’s campaign in the Philippine Cup bubble last year.
But as excited as they are, Austria and Co. plan to bring the 6-foot-10 Cebuano back slowly. And the four-time Coach of the Year did not discount the possibility of placing him under minutes restrictions in his first games.
Fajardo last played in the 2019 Governors’ Cup quarterfinals, where SMB was given the boot by eventual champions Barangay Ginebra.
“I think at the start, kailangan talagang pag-aralan namin,” said Austria.
“From time to time naman mino-monitor namin ‘yan, ‘yung mga practices niya kung talagang allowed na siya ng full game.“
Fajardo continues rehabilitation as he treads the road back to his old form. Austria knows that it may take some time, but the eight-time champion mentor has faith that the nine-year pro will get back there soon.
“It will take time. But I’m sure June Mar, it’s easy for him because alam naman natin kung papano siya mag-ensayo eh, ‘yung discpline niya. In fact, araw-araw e talagang nagte-train siya, nagre-rehab, nagii-strengthening,” he said.
“And he’s too eager to play and it’s good news for the fans. But of course, in the first few games, it will take a period of adjustment sa kanya,” Austria continued.
“But knowing June Mar, I think it’s easy for him.”
Aside from Fajardo, San Miguel is also expecting star guard Terrence Romeo to be back in the fold after hurting his shoulder in the bubble last year.
“Si Terrence since last December, healthy na siya e, and he could play a whole game,” Austria offered.
Injuries were the main issue of SMB last season that ultimately led to the downfall of its five-year Philippine Cup reign, and Austria hopes that his wards will be injury-free this season as they aim to climb back to the top.
“‘Yan ang primary concern ko talaga eh. Sana maging healthy kami. So far so good kami,” the 63-year-old said.
“I think kung magiging healthy yung team, we will give them [other teams] a good fight this coming season.”