IT'S not just Alex Cabagnot who San Miguel Beer is waiting for in time for the crucial grind of the PBA Philippine Cup.
The Beermen are also anticipating the return of Gabby Espinas, who is recovering from a minor knee surgery in the offseason.
Missing the first seven games of the conference, Espinas is expected to be back at the same time as Cabagnot.
"Baka sabay sila," SMB coach Leo Austria told SPIN.ph after practice on Thursday. "After two weeks, i-evaluate sila."
"In the next few days, baka mag-start na (si Gabby) mag-conditioning," he added.
The looming return of Cabagnot and Espinas will make the Beermen complete and definitely scarier as they shift their historic four-peat all-Filipino title bid into higher gear in the postseason.
Austria, though, refused to think that far ahead as he focused on the task at hand, starting with their game against Blackwater on Friday at the Cuneta Astrodome.
"The usual thing naman na ginagawa namin: with or without them, ganun pa rin yung team namin dahil there's somebody who will step up just like nung last two games namin," the SMB coach said.
"But these two guys (Cabagnot and Espinas), kailangan pa rin namin, dahil yung bench namin, hindi consistent eh," he added. "Kailangan pag pasok nila, ma-maintain yung quality ng game na ginagawa namin sa first quarter."
Whether Brian Heruela and Chico Lanete continue to provide the spark off the bench or not will be known as the Beermen aim for their seventh win in eight games in their match against the struggling Elite (2-5) at 4:30 p.m.
“Against Blackwater, we have to be focused dahil nasa losing streak sila and must-win para sa kanila, or else they will be out of contention na,” Austria said. “And we're expecting na high-intensity game ito and they will do everything just to beat us.”
“But alam din naman ang kailangan namin for us to be assured of the top two spots,” he added.