FIRST the bad news: June Mar Fajardo is definitely out of the keenly awaited Christmas Day showdown with Greg Slaughter and Barangay Ginebra.
The good news? Doctors have ruled out a long-term injury for the Petron giant.
Petron coach Gee Abanilla heaved a big sigh of relief on Christmas eve when doctors ruled out an ACL (arterior cruciate ligament) injury for the sophomore, who hurt his right knee on Monday just as the Boosters were wrapping up practice at the Reyes Gym.
"We have a little positive news about June Mar, that's why 'yung atmosphere medyo gumaan ng konti (sa practice)," Abanilla told Spin.ph on Tuesday at the end of Petron's practice.
"Although hindi pa rin s'ya puwede (for the Ginebra game) because we're still waiting for the official announcement from doctors, pero 'yung kinakatakutan namin na baka ACL, di naman.
"As it is, may injury pa rin talaga. Pero (June Mar) being sidelined for more than six months, medyo wala na sa equation."
Abanilla, however, revealed top orthopedic surgeon George Canlas has yet to make a reading on the MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) done on Fajardo's right knee, which the coach said the Cebuano big man twisted after stepping on the foot of Doug Kramer during a five-on-five scrimmage.
Still, the bit of news came as a huge relief for the entire Petron team, which Abanilla said feared the worst at the sight of Fajardo wincing in pain on the floor after the mishap.
"Ang hirap noon (to see Fajardo out for long). Napakabigat nun. JM is averaging double-double, he's playing the best basketball of his life. And he's loved by everyone dahil napakabait na tao," Abanilla said.
"Nung malaman namin na ganun (ACL ruled out), nakahinga kami ng konti."
Asked how long the 6-10 sensation will most likely be out, the Petron coach said: "Ayoko namang pangunahan. Mahirap mag-speculate. Pero nung una kahapon, sinabi sa amin at least a sprained ACL. Kapag sinabi mong ganun, it would be Grade 1, 2 or 3.
"Ang hirap pag Grade 3, surgery 'yun. So kung ganun mangyayari, matagal-tagal pa 'yun."
Still, Petron will now be without its best player when it takes on Ginebra on Wednesday in a game pitting the two most dominant teams in the league this season.