After just a four-week break, the Philippine Basketball Association reopens Sunday at the Smart Araneta Coliseum, kicking off a new season with an expected slambang game between the reigning back-to-back Philippine Cup champ versus the old titlist under a new coach and with a souped-up lineup.
It’s San Miguel Beer opposite Star to usher in PBA Season 42 which promises to be a cutthroat competition with the buildups, facelifts and retooling done by most of the ball clubs in the brief offseason.
Understandably, San Miguel was among the teams that made little changes, being very successful with its old super core group, dominant with three crowns won in the last six conferences.
The Star Hotshots, meanwhile, were among those who underwent a major overhaul, injecting a heavy bag of new blood in their lineup after a steady downslide from their 2014 grand slam season.
June Mar Fajardo and the Beermen clash with Marc Pingris and the Hotshots at 6:30 p.m. shortly after the elaborate opening rites highlighted by the parade of teams with muses Ciarra Bachmann (Alaska), Kim Domingo (Ginebra), Diana Meneses and Janelle Olafson (Blackwater), Valeen Montenegro (GlobalPort), Miss Global England 2015 Sophia Rankin (Mahindra), Bb. Pilipinas Universe Maxine Mendoza (Meralco), Margo Midwinter (NLEX), Elisse Joson and Sofia Andres (Phoenix), Mutya ng Pilipinas Miss Tourism International Justine Mae San Jose (Rain or Shine), Yassi Pressman (SMB), Miss International Kylie Versoza (Star) and Bb. Pilipinas first runner-up Angelica Alita (TNT).
The opening day also features a host of rookies realizing their dream of finally setting foot on the PBA hardcourt.
The list includes Gilas players Mac Belo, Kevin Ferrer, Jio Jalalon, Matthew Wright, Arnold Van Opstal, Russel Escoto, Mike Tolomia, Roger Pogoy, Von Pessumal, Ed Daquiaog, Alfonso Gotladera and Carl Bryan Cruz, and regular 2016 PBA draft top choice Raphael Banal.
But San Miguel has remained the top favorite with old mainstays Fajardo, Arwind Santos, Alex Cabagnot, Marcio Lassiter, Gabby Espinas, Yancy de Ocampo, Brian Heruela and David Semerad plus new recruits Van Opstal, Rashawn McCarthy, RR Garcia and Keith Agovida.
During the well-attended season launch at Makati Shangri-La, almost everyone pointed to the Beermen as the team to beat.
“For as long as Fajardo is playing, San Miguel is up there,” said Meralco alternate governor Ryan Gregorio.
Barangay Ginebra, TNT KaTropa and Alaska Milk are considered the top challengers in San Miguel’s quest for a Philippine Cup treble – a feat done just once in the entire history of the league.
The Tropang Texters made that record feat in 2011-13. And they’re tipped to wage a determined effort to foil the Beermen’s quest with an intact lineup now under new coach Nash Racela.
TNT KaTropa will be the first assignment of Governors Cup champ Barangay Ginebra on Nov. 27 at the Big Dome.
After the SMB-Star opener, next up is the first regular twinbill in the season on Wednesday pitting Blackwater versus Phoenix Petroleum and TNT opposite Rain or Shine also at the Big Dome.
On Friday, it’s Mahindra against GlobalPort then Alaska versus NLEX.
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