San Miguel's road to immortality begins as Beermen start title defense vs Batang Pier in Davao
The San Miguel Beermen begin their Philippine Cup title defense against GlobalPort Batang Pier in Davao City. Jerome Ascano

THE quest for hoops immortality begins for San Miguel Beer as it makes its PBA Season 41 debut on the road against GlobalPort at the University of Southeastern Philippines gym in Davao City on Saturday.

The Beermen, the reigning Philippine Cup and Governors Cup champions,are not just defending the all-Filipino title, but are starting their ambitious bid for a rare Grand Slam in the 5 p.m. Petron Saturday Special match against the Batang Pier.

But Arwind Santos is well aware the team has huge target on its back.

“Sabi nila, bawat team, naghahanda sa amin,” the SMB star said. “Kung sila, isang team ang pinaghahandaan nila, kami eleven. Lahat sila.”

Still, the Beermen are the consensus favorites to repeat as they boast a powerhouse lineup led by back-to-back MVP June Mar Fajardo, Marcio Lassiter, Alex Cabagnot, and Santos.

The star-studded collection even became brighter with the addition of veteran wingman Ryan Araña and promising sophomore playmaker Brian Heruela.

Santos lauded the Beermen’s acquisitions for quickly adapting to the team in its bid to sustain its winning tradition.

“Nahahawa na lang sila sa amin,” Santos said. “Nakikita naman nila yung samahan, yung jelling. Hindi naman mahirap pakisamahan yung team – walang senior-senior dito.”

Despite their abundance of talent, the Beermen are not letting their guards down.

“Dun pumapasok yung respeto,” Santos said. “Hindi porke’t nandyan ka sa taas, i-u-underestimate mo na yung kalaban. Kailangan i-respeto mo rin. Kailangan every game, ibigay mo lagi yung best mo.”

The Beermen’s first obstacle is expected to give them a run for their money right away as they face a Batang Pier side that has also undergone a revamp in the offseason in hopes to improve its eighth-place finish in the last Philippine Cup.

GlobalPort gained Joseph Yeo, Jay Washington, Jonathan Uyloan, Roi Sumang, and Philip Paniamogan.

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Yeo, Uyloan, Sumang, and Paniamogan join the Batang Pier’s loaded guard rotation bannered by Stanley Pringle and Terrence Romeo, who’s brimming with confidence after an impressive Gilas Pilipinas debut.

Follow the writer on Twitter: @KarloSacamos