AFTER being ousted unceremoniously by a rampaging San Miguel Beer, Talk ‘N Text coach Jong Uichico became convinced the Beermen will be a plus-10 favorite against whoever it meets in the PBA Philippine Cup Finals.
Uichico, the last coach to lead the Beermen to an all-Filipino conference title in 2001, cited the vast improvement of big man June Mar Fajardo and the return of veteran playmaker Alex Cabagnot before the trade deadline as the two biggest reason on why San Miguel is a cinch to win the Philippine Cup championship.
Rain or Shine and Alaska are currently battling for the other berth in the best-of-seven finals.
“We lost to a team that really has lots of weapons, horses, but the trade of Cabagnot, in my opinion, really gave them a different dimension to their game,” said Uichico after the Beermen completed a 4-0 sweep of the Texters with a 100-87 win on Friday night.
“Always, you have to do something against him (Fajardo). You can't stop him. Dino-double team namin the whole night, naka-score pa,” he added.
While Fajardo was punishing the Tropang Texters around the rim, the entry of Cabagnot gave the Beermen an additional consistent outside gunner as well as solid playmaker in the playoffs.
The 6-10 Fajardo averaged 20.5 points and 11.7 rebounds for the Beermen in the series while Cabagnot, the six-foot point guard swapped by GlobalPort for Solomon Mercado before the trade deadline, averaged 14.7 points, 5.0 rebounds and 3.2 assists against the Tropang Texters.
Uichico admitted their top priority in the short conference break is to look for an import who can plug the hole at the slot.
For one, the Tropang Texters had become a team with a doughnut hole since the retirement of longtime man-mountain slotman Ali Peek last season.
“Whoever's available that what we think we need, that's who we will pursue. It's always a big man. I'm a big man coach. I'd like to have a big man on the team,” he said.
Forwards Jay Washington, Kelly Williams and Ranidel de Ocampo were forced to defend Fajardo during the course of the series, to no avail.
The 6-7 Washington, a natural stretch-four, averaged 10.5 points and 5.0 rebounds, but saw his three-point shooting percentage drop from 33 percent to just 21 percent during the series.
Asked if the Texters are open to acquiring a big man before the start of the Commissioner’s Cup, Uichico answered in the affirmative, though he admits there are slim pickings out there.
“Always naman, but there's not too much available. That's where we're hurting,” noted Uichico, who won all his eight PBA titles with the San Miguel franchise, - six with the Beermen and two with Barangay Ginebra Kings.
“We found a way naman kahit papano. We wish, but we keep on wishing, gawa ka na lang ng paraan kasi andyan na yan eh.”