FOR PJ Simon, it's a fresh start that could also be the beginning of the end.
The veteran Star guard has been rewarded with a one-year contract extension, but is relishing what he hinted could be his final season in the PBA after a fruitful career that saw him carve out a name as one of the best low draft picks to play in the league.
“Sobrang grateful dahil nabigyan ulit ng isang taon,” Simon told SPIN.ph after practice on Friday. “Habang tumatagal ka, lalo ka nagiging excited dahil parang kami na lang ata ni Ping tsaka ni Rafi yung natitira na veteran eh.”
The 43rd overall pick in the 2001 draft, Simon has proven to be an elite and efficient scorer in his 13 seasons that saw him being named as Mr. Quality Minutes twice and joined the Mythical second team once.
More importantly, the North Cotabato native is a proven winner, having won seven championships, tied with longtime teammate James Yap for fourth most among active players, and behind 10-time champion Rafi Reavis, and Pingris and Joe Devance who both have eight titles under their belt.
After signing his new contract two weeks ago in the presence of former teammate and current team manager Alvin Patrimonio, Simon is content to just continue his role as the Hotshots' elder statesman.
“Sinabi ko kay Alvin na, 'anong gusto mong challenge na naman na pwede kong gawin at ma-contribute ko sa team?' Siguro this time, more of mentorship na,” Simon said.
“Syempre, dapat laging ready pa rin ako,” the 37-year-old cager was quick to add. “Magpapakundisyon pa rin ako para pag merong opportunity at may chance na kailangan ako sa loob, makakapag-contribute pa rin ako at makaka-compete pa rin ako sa mga younger guys.”
“Para ma-inspire ko rin sila na kahit na sa 15th year mo na, hungry ka pa rin at willing ka pa rin matuto,” he continued. “Yun lang naman eh, pag hindi ka na willing matuto, siguro that's the time na mag-retire.”
While he still has the hunger to learn, Simon admitted his body can only do so much, prompting his hint at retirement.
“May hint na rin ako na ganun (final season),” Simon bared. “Dahil year by year, it depends kung kaya pa ng katawan, kaya obviously, hindi ako masyado nagpapalaki, nagpapataba para makapag-compete pa rin. Tingnan ko kung makakasabay pa ako sa mga bago at sa ka-edaran ko.”
That's why for the past few seasons, Simon has been taking it year by year in assessing if he still has what it takes to compete at the highest level.
“Ganun talaga – year by year, so depende sa nararamdaman mo, depende sa kaya mo pa or kung kailangan ka pa ng team,” he said.
And what better way to end a career than to win another crown after falling short the last few years.
“Hopefully, mag-look forward na makakuha ng championship,” Simon said. “Yun naman talaga yung goal – makakuha pa ng isa before mag-retire, so napakagandang retirement nun.”