THE absence of the big men from powerhouse teams San Miguel Beer and Barangay Ginebra does not necessarily make TNT a hot favorite in the coming PBA Philippine Cup.
No less than TNT coach Bong Ravena said this Tuesday, averring the Beermen and Gin Kings remain capable even without the injured June Fajardo and Greg Slaughter, who has announced his decision to take a break from basketball, respectively.
Other teams with towering frontlines should prove to be similar big hurdles the KaTropa must go through for them to end a six-year title drought in the traditional season-opening tourney.
"Actually, NorthPort 'yung team to watch, eh. Intact sila and with (Christian) Standhardinger. In fact, Number one center ngayon is Christian so hindi sila mahina," said Ravena.
"Without Fajardo, pabor sa lahat. But iyung ibang teams na may malalaking lineup iyun 'yung teams to watch. Maybe NLEX, may Magnolia pa," he added.
The same cannot be said of TNT, which could only boast of Kelly Williams, Yousef Taha, Jay Washington, Troy Rosario, Harvey Carey and Marion Magat in its frontline, as Ravena himself pointed out.
"Si Kelly lang masasabing big namin. J-Wash is more of a 4. Baka si Troy ilalagay namin sa gitna. We're not really big," maintained Ravena.
While trying to solve that riddle before the new season kicks off on March 8, Ravena is keeping an eye out for SMB and Ginebra, especially the former which is determined to win a sixth straight championship in the Philippine Cup despite the absence of its 6-foot-10 prized center.
"Malaking bagay for us na wala 'yung Fajardo but we won't take them lightly," noted Ravena.
"Even without Fajardo it doesn't mean they're weak. Siyempre, San Miguel pa rin iyan, beterano na rin sa laro. We won't take it easy. Hindi naman namin p'wedeng maliitin iyan kasi siyempre San Miguel pa rin iyan, experience-wise."
Ravena took some time to wish Fajardo well.
"While injuries are a part of basketball, he is such a big part of the PBA," said Ravena of Fajardo. "I wish he was healthy and playing as you want to beat each team at its best. I hope for a quick recovery for him."
The five-time season MVP was operated on last Tuesday after suffering a complete fracture on his right tibia during practice the day before and is expected to be out at least five months.
Indeed, the remaining Beermen have become even more determined while announcing they are dedicating their upcoming campaign to their gentle giant.
"As any member that goes down... we kind of just want to get that next-man-up mentality," said SMB top gunner Marcio Lassiter. "Obviously, he's a huge, huge guy to fill a role and he's been winning all the MVPs for a reason. He's been that dominant.
"But I do feel we have plenty of talent. Guys here can step up, but I know we have to do this as a team, collectively. That's what's gonna be interesting." (NC)