SAN Miguel Beer tries to shake off rust as it makes its debut in the PBA Commissioner’s Cup, taking on well-oiled Meralco on Sunday night at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum.
Coming off a deserved vacation following their Philippine Cup three-peat, the Beermen are the last team to have a first taste of action in the midseason tournament, and they start dusting off the cobwebs this weekend.
“We hope to sustain what we started, but baka mag-struggle kami sa simula,” SMB coach Leo Austria said in a phone chat with SPIN.ph on the eve of the 6:45 p.m. matchup against the Bolts. “Alam mo naman kami pag mga start ng conference, ganun talaga.”
“Okay naman kami sa practice, pero iba pa rin pag sa game na eh,” he added. “We expect by the middle of the tournament, we’ll be okay.”
The Beermen are facing an early tough test in the Bolts, who are enjoying the view from the top of the standings after winning their first four games, the latest an 89-83 victory over defending champion Rain or Shine last Wednesday.
“They’re really a different with an import,” Austria said, referring to hulking import Alex Stepheson. “Kahit hindi masyado umiiskor yung import, just his presence alone is enough to inspire the locals, especially Baser Amer, who’s really playing well.”
The Beermen bank on a touted reinforcement in Charles Rhodes, who forms the team’s twin towers with June Mar Fajardo, while Arwind Santos slides down at times to the small forward spot.
“I think the only disadvantage is we’ve never seen their import play, so we don’t know how he plays,” Bolts coach Norman Black said, although adding he has seen some video of the 6-foot-10 slotman. “We don’t know whether we should double-team him or he’s going to play in the inside or outside.
“They know our team already,” he added. “San Miguel normally has their success when Arwind plays the four (spot). If you look back on their championships the last few years, that’s why they won the all-Filipino three times. That’ll be an adjustment for them to see whether he plays at the three or four. We don’t have a game to scout them.
“But we’ve all seen San Miguel play,” Black continued. “We know what they can do, so we’ll just go on with what they’ve done in the past.”
The Elasto Painters seek to recover from their first defeat of the conference as they face another undefeated team in Alaska in the curtain-raiser at 4:30 p.m.