PBA Preview: Championship or bust for fourpeat-seeking San Miguel Beer
With the core of the defending three-time PH Cup champs intact, the Beermen are going all out for a fourth straight crown. Warren Salvacion

San Miguel Beermen

Roster: June Mar Fajardo, Arwind Santos, Alex Cabagnot, Chris Ross, Marcio Lassiter, Matt Ganuelas-Rosser, Michael Mabulac, Yancy De Ocampo, David Semerad, Von Pessumal, Keith Agovida, Brian Heruela, Gabby Espinas (Reserve)

Key additions: Christian Standhardinger (not available for Philippine Cup), Louie Vigil, Billy Mamaril, Chico Lanete

Significant losses: Ronald Tubid, Jay-R Reyes, Rashawn McCarthy

FOR San Miguel Beer, it's championship or bust in the PBA Philippine Cup.

The Beermen are gunning for a record fourth straight All-Filipino title and coach Leo Austria stressed they can't afford to lose the crown now.

"Disappointment kapag hindi ka nanalo ng championship with our past five championships. Everybody expects us to be there always, what more kung meron na kaming Christian (Standhardinger)," Austria said after the team's practice at the Acropolis Gym on Thursday.

But the multi-titled mentor said carving out the Philippine Cup record is just as hard as pulling off a grand slam - which they failed to deliver last season - especially with other teams beefing up their respective rosters in the offseason.

"Pero nagpalakas lahat ngayon. So mahirap ngayon ang season na ito," he said.

"Lagi ko sinasabi sa kanila na we have to live up to the expectation for us to improve. You have to work hard. Yung mga inaasahan sa amin, kailangan maipakita namin," he said.

"The pressure is always there, lagi ko sinasabi sa kanila na walang kwenta ang buhay mo pag walang pressure. Nilalabas nila kung ano ang meron sa kanila. Keep workinghard, keep learning, and be a student of the game."

Right now, though, the 59-year-old Austria admitted they are still not in shape.

The Beermen started training on November 13 but hardly had a complete cast during practice. In fact, it was only June Mar Fajardo's second day in training on Thursday while Alex Cabagnot just returned after hurting his heel.

Nonetheless, Austria is confident the team will get its act together in time for Sunday's opening game against a rejigged Phoenix squad.

"I think were not in game shape as of now, but because of the experience of these players, pagdating ng game, iba ang ilalaro nito. Yung ginagawa namin in the past, ganun pa rin,” he said. 

"Yung hunger, kailangan nasa inyo pa rin. Ang kailangan is yung extra effort. Yung talent superb, but it would not prevail kung di mo sasamahan ng hardwork and you have to play as a team both offense and defense." 


Follow the writer on Twitter: @janbballesteros