DEFENDING champion San Miguel Beer is still the team to beat in the Philippine Basketball Association Philippine Cup gets going starting on Sunday at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
This was the consensus among the team executives during launch of the league’s 2017 season Monday at the Shangrila in Makati.
When asked to name the top four to figure prominently in the all-Filipino tournament, San Miguel consistently made it to the list.
Among the most vocal was Meralco Bolts’ alternate governor Ryan Gregorio, explaining that Junemar Fajardo’s presence makes “San Miguel still the team to beat.”
Also putting San Miguel in their top four lists were Eric Areola of Globalport, Raymond Zorilla of Phoenix, Alfrancis Chua of Barangay Ginebra and Leo Isaac.
San Miguel Beer retained the core of its back-to-back champion squad, including Fajardo, Arwind Santos, Marcio Lassiter, Chris Lutz Alex Cabagnot, Yancy de Ocampo, Gabby Espinas, Brian Herueal and David Semerad.
Coach Leo snatched two rookies, Van Opstal and Rashawn McCarthy from the draft and RR Garcia and Keith Agovida through trade.
The Beermen take on a Star team that will parade its new marquee player in Paul Lee, who was acquired through a trade with Rain or Shine in exchange for James Yap.
As for his Meralco squad, Gregorio said they are excited to have Jimmy Alapag in the coaching staff as head of players’ development.
Gregorio tagged NLEX as a darkhorse that might crowd the favorites, San Miguel Ginebra, Alaska and TNT, with Yeng Guiao taking over the team’s coaching rein.
Yap, who attended also attended the affair, said Rain or Shine is one of the top favorites because “andito na si James Yap.”
Of course, he was kidding.
On a serious note, he said he found out why Rain or Shine is hard to beat because “grabe ang kanilang hard work sa team. Lahat bigay-todo sa practice pa lang.”