Feeling out stage for most teams early in PH Cup

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It’s been almost two years since June Mar Fajardo was in uniform. —PBA IMAGES

Knocking Barangay Ginebra off its lofty perch will be every opposing team’s target when the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) takes the lid off of its 46th Season on Friday with the Philippine Cup.

But not this early, as teams are all coming from a torturous, far-from-normal training period tailor-fit for the pandemic.

So expect teams to put cohesion and conditioning on the forefront heading into the first salvo of games set to take place at Ynares Sports Arena in Pasig City.

“One of [San Miguel’s] short-term goals is to strike balance within the team,” said Gee Abanilla, the team manager of the Beermen who will also be looking to reintegrate Most Valuable Player June Mar Fajardo to its fold.

“Balance in terms of position in our line-up, balance in player utilization and balance [between] veterans and [new] guys,” he added.

That inward focus is also evident among teams that made deep runs in last year’s compressed tournament at Clark Freeport.

“[W]e’re in pretty good shape. Everybody pretty much knows the system already. We’re just trying to get better every day in practice,” said Norman Black, whose wards nearly beat the Gin Kings during the semifinals.

“So if they said we’re going to play on the 16th, we’d be ready to play,” he added.

For some teams like TNT and Blackwater, things are looking a bit rawer. The Tropang Giga, after all, are getting a new but familiar coach in Chot Reyes, while the Bossing, stripped bare by off-season deals, are back in the early stages of a rebuilding process.

“In a way, you’re pressing the reset button again,” said Bossing mentor Nash Racela, who is welcoming seven players to his team.

Even the Kings have their work cut out for them. In a period where tune-up games are nearly an impossibility, the defending champions will be needing a few games before it could get the most out of its new weapon in do-it-all forward Christian Standhardinger.

Friday’s opening not only thaws the ice on a season that was supposed to begin last April, but it also heralds the new chapter for 55 rookies who hope to make their mark in Asia’s pioneering pro league.

And if those are any indications, this basketball-crazed nation is in for a treat.

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