Fajardo will play if San Miguel pushes Alaska to Game 7
MANILA, Philippines – Both San Miguel Beermen head coach Leo Austria and two-time reigning PBA MVP June Mar Fajardo say that he will return from a knee injury and suit up for his team if they force a Game 7 against the Alaska Aces in the 2016 PBA Philippine Cup Finals.
Austria first relayed the news to the media after his Beermen rallied and won Game 4, 110-104, on Sunday, January 24, at the Philsports Arena.
The win prevented Alaska from completing a 4-0 sweep of the finals and winning its 15th franchise title. However, history is not on the Beermen’s side as no PBA team has ever returned to win from an 0-3 series deficit.
“Before the game, I told them (San Miguel) give us a Game 7, and he (Fajardo) will play,” Austria said.
Fajardo, the recipient of the 2016 PBA Philippine Cup Best Player of the Conference award, has been out of action since injuring his knee in Game 6 of his club’s semifinals against Rain or Shine.
He averaged 23.1 points, 14.4 rebounds, 1.8 blocks, and 1.6 assists a game during the eliminations to win his third straight Philippine Cup BPC and fourth over BPC award - now just one short of Danny Ildefonso’s PBA record of 5.
“Oo (Yes) … Game 7,” Fajardo confirmed what his coach said later on in near the lockers. Sunday also marked the first time he was at an arena since suffering the injury to receive his Best Player of the Conference award, which he won with 1,407 total points.
“Ako mismo sarili ko, gusto ko mag laro eh, kasi pinaghirapan namin to,” Fajardo said. “Pinaghirapan namin umabot sa finals.”
(I myself want to play, because we worked hard for this. We worked hard to make it to the finals.)
Fajardo says he’s actually been cleared to play by the doctors who have advised him to make the decision whether or not to suit up according to how his injured knee feels.
Austria, the second-year head coach of San Miguel, says it’s him who’s told Fajardo to sit out games and practices.
“He wants to play, and I’m the only one preventing him to play, to practice, because he’s the future of PBA, Philippine basketball, of Gilas, of San Miguel, and I don’t want to aggravate his injury,” said the head coach who’s seeking his third PBA championship with the Beermen.
“Actually we don’t want to disrupt his healing process,” the head coach also said about Fajardo’s recuperation. “The progress on his knee is good.”
Fajardo admits to being frustrated that he can’t play and adds that he’d prefer winning PBA titles over Best Player of the Conference awards, even if he also appreciates the latter.
“Masaya ako nanalo ako BPC, kasi dagdag sa achievements ko yun eh,” said the 26-year-old.
“Pero hindi naman yun yung goal ko eh, yung manalo BPC. Yung goal ko, yung manalo nang championship eh. Yun talaga.”
(That’s not really my goal, to win BPC. My goal is win the championship. That’s really it.)
Game 5 is on Wednesday, January 27. – Rappler.com