The 44th season of the Philippine Basketball Association rolls off on Jan. 13, beginning with the year-opening Philippine Cup, where the San Miguel Beermen have been dominant being winners of the last four editions of the tournament.
And heading into the 2019 Philippine Cup, much wind has been building behind talk of a fifth straight All-Filipino title for the red and white, a contention that this space is not disputing much.
I am high on the chances of the Beermen repeating primarily on two standout points, namely motivation and added firepower.
Motivation for San Miguel is propelled in trying to bounce back after not being able to sustain its good start in PBA Season 43.
The Beermen claimed the Philippine Cup by beating the Magnolia Hotshots Pambansang Manok in the finals, 4-1.
They then made it to a second straight championship appearance in the midseason Commissioner’s Cup, but were downed by the Barangay Ginebra San Miguel Kings in the finals, 4-2.
In the season-ending Governors’ Cup, San Miguel had a rough start but eventually recovered to make its way into the playoffs.
It, however, would not go past the quarterfinals where it had a twice-to-win disadvantage, losing to the Alaska Aces at the first instance.
The somewhat “skidding” finish they had to last season had some bringing up the idea, among other things, of maybe San Miguel needing to break up its ageing core and starting a rebuild.
Knowing how proud of a franchise the Beermen are, they would surely use these doubts and criticisms as motivation to draw from as they begin another run in the local pro league.
To complement their motivated push in PBA Season 44, the Beermen retooled big time, bringing over explosive scorer Terrence Romeo, do-it-all guard Paul Zamar and veteran wingman Ronald Tubid.
The trio is joined by PBA legend Jimmy Alapag as latest additions to the San Miguel camp as one of the deputies of champion coach Leo Austria.
Romeo, Zamar and Tubid, acquired from different trades in the offseason, will join forces with the starting core of June Mar Fajardo, Alex Cabagnot, Chris Ross, Marcio Lassiter and Arwind Santos.
They also get to fortify San Miguel’s already-formidable auxiliary which includes Christian Standhardinger, Von Pessumal and Kelly Nabong.
Romeo has had his share of “bad rap” of late but has found a “welcoming” home in San Miguel even as he vowed to redeem himself.
The three-time league scoring champion should be instant offense for the Beermen off the bench while seeing action as a starter here and there.
Zamar was a breakthrough player for the Blackwater Elite last season as a solid utility guy who eventually found himself to a starting post as the season ended.
With the Beermen, Zamar may not get the same playing time he had with the Elite but he will continue to be an asset with his ability to hit big shots and fearless disposition on the court.
Tubid, meanwhile, makes his San Miguel return and will be a solid locker room presence as was the case in the past while can be counted on to be a steady pinch-hitter on both ends of the court.
Alapag, for his part, was a proven winner while playing for the TNT and Meralco franchises and should bring the same winning mindset on the sidelines while also being a great guide for San Miguel ‘s crack crew of guards.
As it is, the Beermen are already dominant. Now a more motivated and enhanced crew, it is hard to cast aside talk of a fifth straight All-Filipino title for them.
Sure there are still games to be played and the rest of the field would surely come out with their A-game against the Beermen. But I would not be surprised if in the end the San Miguel hoisting another Philippine Cup title in midcourt.
Michael Angelo S. Murillo has been a columnist since 2003. He is a BusinessWorld reporter covering the Sports beat.