HOW do you solve a problem that is June Mar Fajardo?
As accomplished a coach as he is, Tim Cone accepts the reality that there's no way Barangay Ginebra can stop San Miguel’s man mountain one on one in their PBA Governors Cup semifinal duel that gets underway on Monday.
No way, especially in the absence of sidelined big man Greg Slaughter.
“Certainly, without Greg,” said Cone about the prospect of trying to contain arguably the best center – and player – in the pro league today. “We’ll try to figure out a few things, but we’re not gonna able to stop him one on one.”
Cone vividly recalled how Fajardo and then SMB import AZ Reid took over in the clutch to lead the Beermen to a 101-95 double-overtime victory against the Kings in their lone encounter in the eliminations.
The four-year center took care of business in the fourth period and the first overtime, before Reid waxed hot in the second extra frame to seal the deal for the Beermen.
“He lit us up when we played them earlier in the conference. He lit us up in the fourth and overtime, when we’re kind of tired,” said the American mentor, who is in his first ever semifinals series with the Kings.
“They just went to him because we don’t have anybody to stop him.”
Size per size, Cone believes Japeth Aguilar could be a good fit for the league’s two-time MVP. But in terms of strength, the veteran coach doesn’t see the lanky Ginebra ‘stretch 4’ holding a candle against Fajardo.
“Japeth has the size but he doesn’t have the strength to deal with June Mar, and that’s what makes June Mar so good. He’s got size and strength, and skills. So he got it all.”
Even undersized import Justin Brownlee would be a mismatch for the 26-year-old native of Pinamungahan, Cebu, according to Cone.
“No one’s gonna be able to take him one-on-one even if we put Justine on him,” he stressed. “Justine is only 6-foot-5 and June Mar is 6-foot-10, 6-foot-11, so he’s giving up six inches (in height).”
Cone believes it would have been entirely different story had Slaughter been around. He recalled how in the few times that they’ve played against each other, the 6-11 center managed to hold his own against his longtime rival.
“With Greg, we can pretty much have a big guy in front of him and try to contain him,” added Cone. “He’ll get his numbers but he did it with hard work. But we don’t have that guy anymore.”
Cone hopes to give Fajardo, who emerged anew as a leading contender for a third straight MVP award, different looks during the course of the series in a bid to put him off out of his game.
“We’ll figure out something for him and try to be creative,” he said.