Junmar Fajardo and Japeth Aguilar. Composite Photo
MANILA, Philippines – While Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) Commissioner Chito Salud is proud to see young players compete for the league’s top individual awards, he also noted that the league's veteran players are still competing at a high level.
Petron center JunMar Fajardo and Ginebra big men Japeth Aguilar and Greg Slaughter are all in the top five of the race for Best Player of the Conference, news that is welcome to Salud.
“The new players – the rookies, the sophomores, even the juniors – they’re the lifeblood of the league. The future of the league,” he told PBA.ph in a one-on-one interview. “It’s evident right now that they’re leading the league in terms of statistics, in terms of fan base, and in terms of popularity.”
“I think they are in a good spot right now, having these young players. The big men (are) leading the way in terms of performing, and in terms of attracting the fans for the league,” he added.
But Salud was quick to add that “changing of the guard is a long process.”
He pointed out that San Mig’s James Yap, Ginebra’s Mark Caguioa, and Talk 'N Text’s Jayson Castro, Jimmy Alapag and Ranidel de Ocampo are among the veterans who are still capable of playing at a high level.
“That will be a long process before we can finally say that these young turks have finally taken over for the league,” said Salud.
“The new players challenge our veterans and compel them to elevate their games,” he added. “What you see here is not just the coming of a new breed of players, but also veterans who are elevating their play to be able to stay on top of the game.”
Fajardo and Aguilar are ranked first and second in the unofficial Best Player race, while Slaughter is at fourth.
Petron’s Arwind Santos (third) and GlobalPort’s Jay Washington (fifth) round out the top five.