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    More questions than answers as SMB faces KO game against Ginebra

    Has San Miguel kissed its grand slam hopes goodbye? Hardly
    Nov 21, 2019
    PHOTO: Marlo Cueto

    A CLOUD of uncertainty has suddenly shrouded San Miguel and its bid for a grand slam, just days before the PBA Governors' Cup playoffs.

    Looking almost unbeatable the first two conferences of the season, the Beermen have suddenly plunged into crisis entering the most crucial phase of their bid for only the sixth sweep of the league's three conference jewels in its 44-year history.

    That was after a regular Sunday practice descended into chaos when Dez Wells took offense to a bone-crushing pick by Arwind Santos, sparking a scuffle that saw the import get punched by Ronald Tubid, who, in turn, was punched by Kelly Nabong.

    More than the physical pain, what took a hit in the commotion was the bond among this special group of players. Suddenly one of the most close-knit groups in the league was torn apart, the locals on one side and Wells and Nabong on the other.


    Team discipline also showed cracks, and this was something top team officials weren't willing to compromise on.

    Although coach Leo Austria doesn't exactly run a tight ship, sources said it was no less than SMC top honcho Ramon S. Ang, in consultation with sports director Al Chua, who made the decision to suspend Santos, Tubid, and Nabong indefinitely and send Wells home once he got wind of the incident.

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    The stunning moves sent a strong message that any breach in discipline will no longer be tolerated. But it also comes at a huge cost - a multi-skilled starter like Santos missing this crucial stretch of the grand slam chase, if not the remainder of the season.

    Insiders said there is zero chance that San Miguel will lift the suspension on the trio in time for the quarterfinal against twice-to-beat Ginebra beginning on Sunday.

    A source said he won't be surprised if Santos' season is over regardless of how deep the Beermen goes in this playoffs - or if Nabong is dropped by the team altogether.

    Through it all, Austria is keeping a positive attitude, looking at the strange turn of events not as a setback as just another test that will only serve to toughen his powerhouse team.

    “Alam mo kahit wala ka ng nakikitang light sa dulo ng tunnel, it’s (disorder) something that could develop the character of the team,” said the multi-titled coach.



      Wells is also a major loss for the Beermen. The high-scoring import looked exactly like the player who can lead the the team to the Promised Land, until he suffered an ankle injury in a game against Meralco last October 27.

      It went downhill pretty quickly. Wells' flip-flopping on his injury became a sore point for the team. And in the days before the fight, the flamboyant import has already worn out his welcome with most of the local players, a source bared.

      So where does that leave SMB?

      Insiders do not expect the Beermen to change imports with three days to go before the must-win match against Ginebra. That means John Holland will get the call, even if he has been anything but spectacular in his first two games with the team.

      If changes are to be made, it will only happen if the Beermen survive the quarterfinal against Ginebra since they will have ample time to recruit and blend in a new import once the league takes a break for the Southeast Asian Games.


      Through all these, insiders said SMC big bosses are prepared for the worst and will not back down.

      But that doesn't mean the Beermen are giving up the fight. Austria, in fact, has been emboldened by his undermanned team's game against TNT where it put up a brave stand before going down to a 114-109 defeat.

      “How we played tonight, there’s no sign na nagkaroon ng incident sa amin,” said the San Miguel coach. “Maybe it’s a minor setback, but moving forward, I think it will help us a lot.”

      Get more of the latest sports news & updates on SPIN.ph

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      PHOTO: Marlo Cueto
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