Austria on SMB being title favorites: ‘Wala pa rin assurance na we will win the championship’

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With a seemingly imbalanced roster loaded at all five positions, it’s not hard to see why the San Miguel Beermen are picked by many to once again hoist the Jun Bernardino trophy in the upcoming 2019 Philippine Cup.

The Beermen have dominated the locals only tournament for the past four years, with no team being able to solve the puzzle underneath that is June Mar Fajardo.

Although other PBA squads have tinkered with their line-ups in hopes of catching up with the PBA’s superteam of the century, the defending champs did some re-tooling of their own and further strengthened their already overpowered roster.

Despite all the premature praises, head coach Leo Austria made it clear that nothing is set in stone and his team will still have to fight through several adversities to capture their fifth straight Philippine Cup crown.

“There’s always pressure for us when All-Filipino, especially since we won the last four. It is a tough challenge for us since everybody is expecting us to win another championship, but this time it’s really difficult because there are a lot of teams building up their line-up and acquiring big players to match ours,” he explained to FOX PH during the PBA Media Day at the Solaire Resorts and Casino.

“That’s the reason why they tagged us as the team to beat because our line-up is still intact. Plus we now have Standhardinger, Romeo, Samar, and Tubid, which means nag-beef up pa lalo yung line-up namin. It still remains to be seen. We can never know what will happen and wala pa rin assurance na we will win the championship.”

Although he is currently one of the most successful coaches in the league today, some pundits have criticized Austria for overly relying on his formidable starting unit at times, with only two or three relievers coming off the bench to play limited minutes. With the rest of his core getting up there in age, SMB pounced on the opportunity to bring in fresh legs like Terrence Romeo and Paul Zamar, as well as bringing back wily veteran Ronald Tubid.

“Unang una nagpapasalamat ako kasi they are a good addition to the team. Our team is often tagged for having a short rotation but this time, with the addition of Terrence and Paul talagang lumalim yung bench namin. It’s up to us siguro kung papano namin made-develop yung good chemistry,” the three-time PBA Coach Of The Year winner said.

Aside from adding key players, SMB’s biggest addition might just be on the sidelines, as current Alab Pilipinas head coach Jimmy Alapag has been brought in to serve as a deputy for Austria. Although Alapag is currently still tied up in the ABL, Austria is thrilled to have another brilliant basketball mind to further strengthen their dynasty.

“As of now hindi pa niya magawa yung tunay na role niya since most of the time he’s out with Alab,” Austria said of Alapag. “He told us na he will be busy for the next 10 days, naglaro sa Cebu, sa Malolos and then now sa Malaysia. But I’m sure na kapag nagkaroon na siya ng free time he will spend it with our team. He is a great addition to our team, we all know he’s a member of Gilas before and experienced in international competition. Besides, he’s the former star player of Talk N’ Text so we all know what he is capable of.”

San Miguel opens its title bid against the Columbian Dyip on January 18 at the Cuneta Astrodome.

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