After winning two titles in season 40, we can officially say goodbye to Petronovela.
The Beermen finally put the pieces together and came up with championships in both the All Filipino and Governor’s Cup behind strong performances from everyone on their roster.
With that said, I can’t help but ask: could we be in for a solid run of titles similar to what we saw in early 2000’s? That group of Beermen ended up making several Finals appearances, winning 5 titles in a span of three seasons.
The similarities are hard to ignore.
Danny Ildefonso, a back-to-back MVP recipient, led the Beermen during his era while the current iteration is led by the Kraken, Junemar Fajardo. At the forward position, we have legit jump shooting scorers in Danny Seigle and Arwind Santos.
The 2000 edition had the legendary Olsen Racela manning the point. This year, the comebacking Alex Cabagnot showed us why he is one of the most dangerous point guards in the league. Add in gunner Marcio Lassiter – arguably the best two-guard in the league and by far the best shooter – and underrated guards Chris Lutz and Chris Ross, and the Beermen have the best roster on paper and on the floor in the league. To think, they’ve got guys like Tubid, Espinas, Semerad, and former #3 pick Ronald Pascual (don’t sleep on this guy – he could be quite solid in a few years) manning the bench.
Lassiter in particular is the one guy who just elevates the team to a whole new level. Yes, Junemar and Arwind have won MVPs and Alex is the running the show, but Marcio is the PBA’s Ray Allen. The site of seeing him wide open in the left corner…
…or coming off a staggered screen…
would make any Rain or Shine or Alaska fan just cringe.
By the end of the eight games he played in the semifinals and finals, Marcio shot a blistering 49.1% from 3, including an insane 64% on corner threes.
By game 3 of the Finals, Alaska finally figured out that they would play the percentages and take their chances letting San Miguel shoot 3s from the wings – where they were shooting a much lower percentage – or letting lesser shooters beat them.
This, for the most part, worked but the only problem though of course was that Beermen still had Fajardo and Reid to feed the ball to and get them bucket after bucket.
And that’s what makes the Beermen so dangerous. They have at least five guys who can play for the National Team. In the past, having this many solid superstars has worked against them. Now however, these guys have largely put aside their egos (namely, Santos and Cabagnot) for the betterment of the team.
It’s clear that Alex’s leadership role is growing, as he consistently is teaching his teammates on what to do and what to expect next. Add in his mastery of the ball screen (51%FG on ball screens during the semis and finals) and his control of the game on the court, it’s clear that his teammates are letting him take the lead.
He’s the engine that makes them go, as he can create for himself:
Or set up his teammates for wide open jumpers
Meanwhile, Santos has taken a backseat and to play off of Fajardo and Cabagnot – rightfully so though – to allow the two to maximize their games. We’ve heard rumors in the past of Santos and Cabagnot having an internal power struggle in the locker room, but I suppose what they say is true: winning solves everything.
This is a credit to Coach Leo Austria, who’s proven that he more than belongs and “can compete” in the big league. He’s gotten some of the biggest superstars in the league to buy into his system. To think, there were rumors that after the poor performance in the Commissioner’s Cup, right after they had just won the Philippine Cup, management was considering replacing Austria.
And that’s where a lot of the drama has started – not on the court, but in the meeting room. For years, SMC management has been working on the premise that if it ain’t working, fix it by changing coaches and rosters without letting them to grow. Just take a look at what’s happening to Ginebra now. Now that Ginebra has gotten Tim Cone in fold, will they be the focus of SMC management? Could this dip into the resource pool of players/coaches they have at hand and deter San Miguel Beer from winning more championships?
Regardless of what happens with management and the other SMC teams, if everything remains the same, it would appear that the Beermen have a legit window to keep adding championships to its trophy room. The average age of the Beermen is just 29.9 years old, including Fajardo and Lassiter who are just 26 and 28 respectively, and are just entering their primes. Super import Arizona Reid has hinted that he’ll comeback next season after initially suggesting that he would retire this year.
As for the competition, Ginebra will definitely be entering a transition period as they still have to learn Cone’s system. Star may or may not be in disarray mode following the coaching change. Alaska should continue to contend, but they’ve got an aging roster and without any means of adding a superstar, they will ll have to rely on the growth of rookie head coach Alex Compton and a little luck in signing up the right import. ROS will always be good, but their lack of personnel who can match up with Fajardo will always be a problem.
The biggest threat will most likely be Talk ‘N Text, who are looking to add reinforcements with the number one and two picks in this year’s draft.
Nevertheless, with the current core in place, and the championship experience gained this year, it’s starting to look like San Miguel Beermen will be the favorite to win it all the next few years. Can someone say Grand Slam?
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