THE PBA Philippine Cup finals may not feature the most popular teams in the league, but for San Miguel and Alaska, the championship series still deserves the attention of basketball fans.
This will be the first time in six conferences a best-of-seven title series will be without the two most popular ballclubs in Barangay Ginebra and Purefoods. The Kings and Hotshots suffered early exits in the All-Filipino conference playoffs.
But San Miguel coach Leo Austria doesn’t believe the series won’t suffer at the gates even in the absence of Ginebra, Purefoods, and even Rain or Shine, the third most popular team based on a PBA study, which Alaska eliminated in their semifinals series Sunday.
“I think that is not true. Siguro ang mga nagsasabi nun ay Ginebra fans,” said Austria with a big laugh.
Turning serious, he stressed, “Dudumugin ito dahil alam naman natin what kind of basketball ang ipapakita ng Alaska at San Miguel especially sa mga basketball aficionados.”
For his part, Alaska coach Alex Compton admitted crowd attendance is the least in his mind right now as he tries to steer the Aces to the championship in only his second conference as head coach.
Still, Compton sees an entertaining series for the fans.
“I think for the fans that will come, they will be seeing great basketball,” said the American mentor.
League chairman Patrick Gregorio said he still expects a big crowd to watch the series that feature the last two MVPs in June Mar Fajardo and Arwind Santos against a streaking Alaska side that is seeking to regain lost glory.
“Para sa akin, personally, and I’m sure that the governors and the vice chairman (Robert Non) see that this is a classic match-up,” he said.
“This is good basketball. The fans saw that and I’m sure in the next few days, dudumugin tayo sa Araneta (Coliseum) dahil napakagandang match-up nito,” Gregorio added.
The San Miguel-Alaska match-up is also like a breath of fresh air for PBA fans, who are used to seeing either Purefoods or Rain or Shine playing in the finals.
“I think it is about time na ma-realize ng mga tao na hindi lang Ginebra, Purefoods, o Rain or Shine ang nakakahakot ng fans. It will be good for the fans and the PBA,” said Austria.
Compton believes the fans will still troop to the venue because, at the end of the day, it is still all about basketball, the sport closest to the hearts of the Filipinos.
“Passion ng bansa ang basketball. You are going to see both teams putting their hearts out on the floor. It will be a joy to watch,” said Compton.