Austria bares plans for Standhardinger, Santos as he manages minutes of deep SMB side
SMB wraps up practice on the eve of its PBA Commissioner's Cup debut. Karlo Sacamos

LEO Austria faces a tricky test at the helm of the country’s best basketball team that got even better starting in the PBA Commissioner’s Cup.

Starting on Wednesday, the coach handles a side parading top pick Christian Standhardinger and import Troy Gillenwater, who link up with their fearsome five of June Mar Fajardo, Arwind Santos, Marcio Lassiter, Alex Cabagnot, and Chris Ross.

The Beermen have become deeper and stronger, making them overwhelming favorites to retain their crown in the midseason tournament before ruling the Governors’ Cup to complete their second grand in franchise history.  

But there can also be some drawbacks. After all, having five local superstars to satisfy is already a handful. What more when you add another in this year’s top pick in Standhardinger, not to mention import Gillenwater?

Austria, however, is sticking to the positives of having a powerhouse lineup.

“Sabi nila we’re going to have a problem, but it’s a good problem,” the three-time Coach of the Year said after practice on Tuesday on the eve of their conference debut against Meralco at the Mall of Asia Arena.

The challenge for Austria is how to manage the playing time of his core guys, especially his frontcourt rotation of Fajardo, Standhardinger, and Gillenwater.

“The good thing with us, paglabas ng isa, we have another big man, which is Christian, June Mar, or the import; yun yung advantage namin,”Austria said.

“But it’s hard for these three guys to play at the same time, dahil we want good chemistry, a good rotation for the players,” the six-time champion coach was quick to add.

Then there’s Santos, the former MVP who is making the sacrifice again with the arrival of import Gillenwater.

For Austria, it’s a matter of keeping his big men, especially their prized rookie Standhardinger, on the same page with the team goal in mind.

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“Si Arwind, magsa-slide sa three, but there are times na pwede siya maging four, depends on our opponent,” Austria said. “I talked to Christian already na it doesn’t matter who will be the starter, and I talked to him na it depends on our opponent – you might be a starter, you might come off the bench.”

Good thing, juggling all these players – and egos – is nothing new to Austria.

“Since I took over this team, the pressure is always there,” Austria said. “And it’s a challenge for us. Tulad ng sinasabi ko before, walang kwenta ang buhay kung walang pressure.”

Follow the writer on Twitter: @KarloSacamos