Fajardo on benching: ‘We have to respect our coach’
MANILA, Philippines – Some star players would be disappointed, bitter, even angry, when they’re not on the court and involved in crucial, game-changing plays down the stretch.
The case has more weight when you’re June Mar Fajardo, the reigning PBA Most Valuable Player, among many other accolades, who also competed with the best in the FIBA World Cup. More so when you’re supposedly the franchise centerpiece and go-to guy.
But Fajardo does not think like that. He thinks it all makes sense in the big picture.
“Hindi naman,” said the soft-spoken 6-foot-10 big man when asked if he was at all surprised he was benched the entire fourth period of the San Miguel Beermen’s stinging 80-77 loss to Blackwater Elite Wednesday, February 11.
“Kailangan namin mag-trust sa sistema ni coach. Kailangan namin siya i-respeto.” (Not really. We need to trust coach’s system. We have to respect our coach.)
"Hindi mo kailangan mag-rason. Ganoon talaga ang buhay eh. Hindi lahat ng bagay magiging masaya. You can never be strong if the only thing in this world is happiness." - June Mar Fajardo
Fajardo played just a little over 18 minutes the entire game, a far cry from the 40-minute games he played in the previous Finals. He wound up with just 5 points and 9 rebounds.
But why was Fajardo, last conference’s Best Player, benched in the first place, especially with the team hovering over dangerous territory, going back and forth with Blackwater?
“Nag-struggle din ako eh,” the 25-year old said simply, “nag-struggle kami lahat.” (I really struggled, we all struggled.)
Fajardo shot two-of-9 field goals and was blocked twice with one turnover to boot. He was also a defensive liability as the Beermen were -15 with him on the floor.
Just like spectators and critics, Blackwater’s Marcus Douthit and Brian Heruela were surprised Fajardo was excluded from the endgame. Though both admitted it was a welcome development as far as their chances of winning were concerned.
“I was surprised. With June Mar and the import it was a match-up problem for us,” Blackwater’s temporary import and Fajardo’s Gilas teammate Douthit explained.
“I had to check June Mar and then the import would get a lot of baskets. So I was surprised he didn’t play as much as he should have but that’s the coach’s decision. But I’m happy he didn’t though so we got the win.”
“I was thinking what’s wrong. I know he’s all banged up from last conference and maybe he’s still tired and still recovering,” pondered point guard Heruela, who is friends with Fajardo and even spoke with him about their respective team’s chances prior to the game.
“It’s a good thing for us he didn’t play because if he did it would be a lot of problems for us,” he added grinning. “I’m thankful that he didn’t play and that he wasn’t making his normal shots.”
The 2012 first overall pick played worse this game following a 9-point, 13-rebound performance versus Ginebra last Sunday.
“Hindi ko rin alam eh,” Fajardo said, admitting he does not understand why he’s struggling. “Yung mind ko nandoon pero parang yung katawan ko hindi sumusunod eh.”
“Pero hindi mo kailangan mag-rason. Ganoon talaga ang buhay eh. Hindi lahat ng bagay magiging masaya,” he then reflected. “You can never be strong if the only thing in this world is happiness.”
(I don’t even know. My mind is there but it’s like my body won’t follow. But we don’t need to find reasons. Life’s like that. You can’t always be happy.)
Expansion teams seem to be the kryptonite of the Philippine Cup champions since they also were victims of KIA Carnival a week ago. It turned out to be a bad omen as they’re now sliding down a 0-3 rut.
“Sobrang tahimik. Siyempre dismayado lahat kasi natalo kami sa Blackwater,” Fajardo shared what it was like inside the locker room following the loss. (It was very quiet. Everyone was in dismay because Blackwater beat us.)
It was such a disappointing loss that a usually accommodating head coach Leo Austria politely declined interviews.
“Ganoon talaga yung buhay eh. Kailangan mo labanan yung struggle mo to earn the best day of your life.” (That’s life. You need to fight through the struggles to earn the best day of your life.)
In a short single round-robin schedule, and with 3 teams still undefeated at the top of the standings, San Miguel will have to make a break for it and string together some wins quick.
Unfortunately for them, their next opponent will be far more challenging and certainly won’t be kind to them.
The Beermen is set to lock horns with the Alaska Aces on Tuesday, February 17, in a rematch of last conference’s Finals. Like San Miguel, Alaska is also wobbly to start the second conference and are currently at 1-2.
“Kailangan namin i-pick up yung isa’t isa,” Fajardo said. “Kailangan namin i-face yun and i-solve namin yun as a team. Tiwala naman kami sa sarili namin eh. Nakayanan naman namin last conference.” (We need to pick each other up. We need to face and solve the problems as a team. We trust each other after all. We already did it last conference anyway.) – Rappler.com