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With Fajardo possibly out in 9 months, SMB defanged

By Al S. Mendoza

JUST days after Kobe Bryant’s passing in a helicopter crash in Calabasas, California, Philippine basketball was likewise jolted by a rather impactful blow.

It came in the form of an injury suffered by June Mar Fajardo.

It was a freak mishap as Fajardo, the nation’s cornerstone of basketball, absorbed the accident during practice.

But it was not a life-threatening incident as it was far from being a Bryant-like tragedy, which also killed Bryant’s 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, a budding basketball player, and seven others.

Bryant was called the Mamba in the 20 years that he was the Los Angeles’ chief.

With Bryant’s death, a bit of basketball humanity died, too.

He was only 41 years old.

Retiring just five years ago after giving Los Angeles five NBA titles, and winning two NBA Finals MVP, two Olympic gold medals and one NBA MVP, Bryant had never actually left the game.

In retirement, he was doing a lot for basketball—his love for the game extending to developing women’s basketball when God plucked him away from us.

But as I said, God always has His reasons when he does something, nasty or otherwise.

It is not for us to question God’s motives.

Not even the Pope can do that.

Once the unexpected, totally at times, hit us, just bow to God’s will.

Questioning it is simply abandoning your faith, your trust.

Now back to Fajardo’s case.

He was not even in a championship game, let alone a crucial game for his San Miguel Beer squad, when the unexpected happened.

As I said, he was in practice, driving for a layup when, upon landing, his shin gave in.

Diagnosis showed a major injury, a fracture no less.

That  happened only last Monday, February 3, barely three weeks before the opening of the PBA (Philippine Basketball Association) Philippine Cup.

Because Fajardo will undergo surgery—if he hasn’t gone under the knife yet—SMB has suddenly become from chief contender to a mere participant in the battle for the crown jewel of the so-called Grand Slam.

Suddenly, too, is the specter of the Beermen finally seeing their record title-winning streak getting snapped at five.

Needless to say, Fajardo, who is predicted to recuperate for no less than nine months, will see his MVP reign end after pocketing the last five MVPs in landslide fashion.

Almost benefiting, in an instant, from Fajardo’s injury is Barangay Ginebra San Miguel, who’s been desperately eyeing the All-Filipino crown for the longest time.

Already, Ginebra coach Tim Cone has been very vocal in his desire to win the season’s opening conference.

“Actually, it is not only my team getting a lift with the misfortune that befell on Fajardo and San Miguel,” said Cone, whose Gin Kings won the concluding conference (Governors’ Cup).  “The door was opened to everybody.”

With SMB seeing itself pushed against the ropes, it has to make do with the untested 6-foot-8 Mo Tautuaa to replace the impregnable 6-foot-10 Fajardo at the slot.

A tall order, indeed.

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