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San Miguel Beer still the team to beat

By Al S. Mendoza

SAN Miguel Beer is on everybody’s lips on the eve of Season 44 of the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA).

When Asia’s first play-for-pay unfurls today, January 13, at the cavernous Philippine Arena, all pundits point to the Beermen as the team to beat. Again.

But first, where is Philippine Arena located?

At the Ciudad de Victoria, a 140-hectare tourism haven in firecracker-rich Bocaue, Bulacan.

The arena 30 kilometers north of Manila boasts of being the world’s largest indoor area with a seating capacity of 55,000.

I watched the concert of Katy Perry live there a while back and,

from where I sat at the upper box, I could barely see the singer.

Worse, parking was a mess. 

It took me almost two hours to get to the NLEx from the arena grounds. 

From NLEx to my Quezon City home was a car travel of only about 45 minutes! Whew!

I swore not to watch any show there again—unless I get a ringside ticket and an assurance of a quick exit to the expressway.

Otherwise, it’d be just another waste of time.  And money.

But back to the PBA’s San Miguel Beer.

I have three major reasons why I go with the pundits’ point that SMB is the wise-money bet anew in the season’s opening conference that is the All-Filipino series aka Philippine Cup.

One, Christian Standhardinger, the super talented 6-foot-8 Fil-German, will finally be in full harness.

Although he was SMB’s No. 1 player for 2018, Standhardinger missed much of the last season in fulfillment of his contract with a Hong Kong team.

Two, even without Standhardinger, the Beermen won the 2018 All-Filipino Cup with much ease.

That same crew that won SMB’s record fourth straight All-Filipino last year of June Mar Fajardo, Arwind Santos, Alex Cabagnot, Marcio Lassiter and Chriss Ross are still very much around, together with an efficient coaching staff headed by six-time champion Leo Austria.

And three, SMB’s acquisition of Terrence Romeo all the more augmented the already formidable backcourt combo of Ross, Cabagnot and Lassiter.

Controversial as Romeo may seem because of his reported rifts with his former coach Pido Jarencio at Elite and his teammates at TNT KaTropa, the dribbling wizard will always be a potent force as he can make SMB win a crucial game on any given day.

Overall, San Miguel Beer actually faces an acid test as the full weight of shouldering home an unprecedented fifth straight All-Filipino crown could take its toll in the protracted struggle.

The key cog here is Coach Austria, whose near-flawless system of player rotation will be put to a severe test again—both internally and externally as his foes will surely gang up on his boys’ myth of invincibility.

Meanwhile, sit back, relax and enjoy the show.  

There is no sporting spectacle all year round as credible and as exciting as the PBA.

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