Guards take charge

In Photo: Leo Austria: “When we saw the opportunity to get RR Garcia, we jumped on it.”

GUARDS no taller than 6 feet are playing the biggest roles in the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA).

This was the observation of San Miguel Beer Head Coach Leo Austria, noting that LA Tenorio, Sol Mercado and rookie Scottie Thompson performed bigger than themselves in Barangay Ginebra San Miguel’s title run in the Governors’ Cup.

Jimmy Alapag, Baser Amer and Chris Newsome, Austria added, were also instrumental for Meralco, a relatively surprise finalist that send the series to a Game Six.

So the Beerman tabbed RR Garcia from Star.

“When we saw the opportunity to get RR, we jumped on it. He will definitely be a big help to the team,” said Austria, whose Beermen are eyeing a third straight Philippine Cup crown.

“The trend in basketball now, may it be here in the PBA or abroad, has shifted to guards-based plays. You need as many guards as possible because they are the extension of the coach on the court,” Austria added.

San Miguel Beer gave up Ryan Arana in the Garcia deal and also released Brian Heruela to free agency to make room for Garcia.

Austria stressed Chris Ross and Alex Cabagnot are already doing a good job but having Garcia in the rotation would give the team more depth.

“If you will notice, sometimes Alex can be an effective scorer and we need another point guard who can score and direct the team. And RR fits that role,” Austria said.

Austria said letting go of Arana didn’t jeopardize his rotation. Ronald Tubid and Marcio Lassiter, the Beermen coach said, could fill in that role as Chris Lutz continues to recover from injury.

The Beermen also added Arnold van Opstal although Austria admitted it will take some time for the former De La Salle center to become a major contributor to his squad.

“I told Arnold that his time would come soon and that he would get the chance to play alongside seasoned centers June Mar [Fajardo] and Yancy [de Ocampo],” Austria said. “He [van Opstal] is very agile, and if he keeps on working hard every day, he will be very competitive.”

The PBA opens its 42nd season with the traditional ceremony at 4 p.m. at the Smart Araneta Coliseum. San Miguel Beer and Star clash in the lone game at 6 p.m.

Like the Beermen, Star, now under Coach Chito Victolero, also beefed up its backcourt by acquiring Paul Lee (from Rain or Shine for James Yap) and Jio Jalalon (from the Gilas draft).



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