PBA: SMB coach Austria anticipates healthy competition after busy offseason

Camille B. Naredo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Mar 16 2021 06:37 PM

PBA: SMB coach Austria anticipates healthy competition after busy offseason 1
San Miguel head coach Leo Austria. PBA Media Bureau

MANILA, Philippines -- Despite adding CJ Perez to an already star-studded roster, San Miguel coach Leo Austria knows there is no guarantee that they can regain their All-Filipino Cup crown after several PBA teams also beefed up this offseason.

The Beermen acquired Perez, a two-time scoring champion, in a controversial trade that saw them send bench players and a first-round pick to TerraFirma in exchange. 

San Miguel is also set to welcome back six-time Most Valuable Player June Mar Fajardo, who will return to action this season after sitting out the entirety of 2020 due to a leg injury.

Despite these boosts to their roster, Austria is quick to temper expectations that they can once again reign supreme in the All-Filipino conference. San Miguel's dynasty in the Philippine Cup ended last year after five seasons, with Barangay Ginebra winning the crown in the Clark bubble.

"It's not a guarantee," said Austria during the recent PBA Press Corps Awards Night. "If you still remember, 'yung last two championships namin in the Philippine Cup, talagang hirap na hirap kami." 

San Miguel had to rally from a double-digit deficit in Game 7 of the 2019 PBA Philippine Cup finals against Magnolia to grab a hard-earned 72-71 victory. Fajardo had 17 points and a whopping 31 rebounds in that game.

"Maswerte kami, and maybe because of the experience we've been through in the last five years kaya kami nanalo," said Austria. 

Given the offseason moves made by the other PBA teams, Austria is already anticipating a "very exciting" All-Filipino conference.

"I think this is a healthy development for the PBA dahil almost every day nagkakaroong ng pinag-uusapan. And healthy ito dahil 'yung mga players, nakakarating doon sa gusto nilang puntahan, and 'yung mga coaches eh, nakukuha nila 'yung gusto nilang player," said Austria.

"Dahil you know 'yung mga coaches, 'yung management, ang iniisip niyan is ano eh, how to have a strong team. Supposed to be all the teams ganoon ang gagawin for us to have a healthy competition," he added.

While San Miguel added Perez, the reigning champions Barangay Ginebra acquired former top overall pick -- and former Beerman -- Christian Standhardinger in a trade that sent Greg Slaughter to NorthPort. Magnolia also bolstered its lineup by acquiring Calvin Abueva from Phoenix Super LPG, and TNT Tropang GIGA welcomed back Chot Reyes and former MVP Kelly Williams.

Phoenix Super LPG also showed that it was building on its campaign from the All-Filipino Cup by trading for Vic Manuel and Chris Banchero, to add to a lineup that already includes sharpshooter Matthew Wright.

"I'm happy for those players na talagang nakakapunta doon sa gusto nilang puntahan, and then 'yung mga coaches nakukuha nila 'yung mga players," said Austria.

"What is exciting this next season is nagkaroon din ng mga palitan ng mga coaches. That means the management is trying their best to improve the performance of their team," he added.

While the player movement has gained plenty of attention -- and scrutiny -- among fans, Austria believes that Reyes' return to the Talk 'N Text franchise will have a massive impact on the PBA in the coming season as well.

"Alam naman natin, champion coach ito, and then national coach for so many, for so long. Alam niya ang in and outs ng basketball, alam niya 'yung x and o, and then welcome na welcome siya," he said.

"That means we will be having strong competition, healthy. And that's what we want in the PBA." 

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