San Miguel begins quest for second straight PBA title in game against winless KIA
SMB coach Leo Austria hopes the Beermen can sustain the momentum of their PBA Philippine Cup victory over Alaska. Jaime Campos

SAN Miguel Beer’s quest for a second straight PBA title begins on Wednesday when it debuts against lightweight KIA Motors in the opening game of the Commissioner’s Cup at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

The Beermen enter the 4 p.m. match just two weeks removed from capturing the Philippine Cup championship following their heart-stopping 4-3 Finals series win over the Alaska Aces.

With just one week to get a decent practice, the team is looking to use the game against its winless opponent to break in import Ronald Roberts, who arrived in the country from the US just last weekend.

“We’re excited to start our bid for another title,” said coach Leo Austria, who won his first-ever league championship since assuming the San Miguel job just before the start of the season.

“Hopefully, we can sustain the momentum and the success from our last championship. We know that aiming for a second straight title is not easy, but we’ll try our very best.”

A product of Saint Joseph’s University, the 6-foot-8 Roberts saw action for the Philadelphia 76ers during the NBA Summer League after going undrafted in last year’s NBA Rookie Draft. 

The 23-year-old Roberts played just two games for the Santa Cruz Warriors in the NBA D-League, averaging 8.8 points and 5.8 rebounds, before agreeing to accept the Beermen’s offer.

“He (Roberts) can play the 3-4-5 positions (small forward, power forward, and center). He’s adjusting well to our system in our practice, but we’ll see in the game against Kia,” said Austria, whose original choice, Arinze Onuaku, became unavailable after deciding to wait for a call-up in the NBA.

The Beermen will be facing a Carnival side that opened the mid-season import-conference with two straight losses against GlobalPort (100-89) and Meralco (90-80).

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Playing coach Manny Pacquiao won’t be around to call the shots for the expansion franchise as he is still on an extended stay in the US due to several commitments.

New lead assistant Chito Victolero will continue to assume coaching duties in an acting capacity.

So far, the Carnival’s giant import Peter John Ramos has been an absolute beast inside after averaging 37.5 points and 20.5 rebounds in his first two games in the league.

But the lack of local support has been hurting the cause of the Carnival, who remain winless since beating fellow expansion Blackwater, 80-66, during the opener of the Philippine Cup.

The Puerto Rican behemoth however, is expected to have his hands full against the San Miguel big boys of reigning league MVP June Mar Fajardo, Doug Kramer, and newly-acquired Jay-R Reyes.

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