MANILA, Philippines – The Magnolia Hotshots cannot underestimate the San Miguel Beermen in their first game of the PBA's 45th season, even as they come in without their biggest weapon – reigning MVP June Mar Fajardo.
This, according to veteran forward Marc Pingris, who considers the Beermen as dangerous as ever even without the "Kraken."
"Para sa amin, hindi namin iniismol talaga ang San Miguel," Pingris said. "Sobrang kumpleto pa rin sila."
Fajardo, a five-time MVP in the league, is set to miss the upcoming All-Filipino Cup after sustaining a leg injury in practice. It is possible he may miss the season in its entirety.
Pingris is a close friend of Fajardo and has already visited the big man to raise his spirits in the midst of this latest challenge in his career.
But he is also looking ahead to their game against the Beermen on March 8, which will open the PBA Philippine Cup at the Araneta Coliseum.
"Alam niyo naman ang San Miguel," says Pingris. "Kumpleto pa rin naman sila eh. Marami pa naman silang malalaki."
"Alam niyo naman, hindi naman kahit nawala siguro si June Mar, babagsak na 'yung team nila or what, 'di ba," he added.
Pingris points out that San Miguel has already proven it can be competitive even with Fajardo sidelined. The Beermen still made the playoffs in the 2018 PBA Governors' Cup even with Fajardo sitting out the bulk of the conference due to a stress fracture.
"Hindi mo pwedeng isantabi ang San Miguel," said Pingris.
"Champion team 'yan eh," he said. "So kami naman, laro lang. Ganoon uli. Back to zero, laro lang, more on defense. Pero alam ko, hindi magpapabaya ang San Miguel."
Without Fajardo, the Beermen can still rely on a talent-laden roster that includes Chris Ross, Arwind Santos, Marcio Lassiter, Terrence Romeo and Alex Cabagnot, as well as big man Moala Tautuaa.
The Magnolia-San Miguel game will be the lone match of opening night. It will be an early rematch of last season's All-Filipino Finals, won by the Beermen in seven games.
Opening night will also feature the Leo Awards for the league's 44th season, with Fajardo tipped to win a record-extending sixth MVP award.
(For more sports coverage, visit the ABS-CBN Sports website).