Despite all the pre-season pickles, the San Miguel Beermen have established themselves as the primary team to beat

By Klyde Manansala | Photo by Tristan Tamayo

When we talk of the San Miguel Beermen, the word “powerhouse” usually comes to mind. Although most teams have reinvented their identities through seemingly unending shuffling of rosters, the Beermen, without a doubt, remain as the most intact, complete, and strongest team in the business.

San Miguel’s well-oiled system features the league’s elite, with four-time MVP Jun Mar Fajardo at the top of the list. The Kraken, as he is infamously called, has the best supporting cast any player could ask for—Marcio Lassiter, Alex Cabagnot, Chris Ross, Arwind Santos, and Christian Standhardinger. Heading into the PBA’s 44th season, the Beermen have just showed that they’re not yet done with reinforcing their roster.

Last month, the reigning Philippine Cup champions further bolstered their lineup by signing one of the league’s best scorers, Terrence Romeo. Many found the trade of quality bench players like Brian Heruela and David Semerad for a controversial guard  as a huge gamble given the former Northport and TNT player’s abrasive reputation.

“Many teams lost interest in the former FEU star due to his reputation, but SMB firmly believes that Romeo just needs to be put on the right track. His stint with a respectable team like San Miguel could be Romeo’s last and best chance to redeem himself

During his tenure with his previous teams, Romeo was reportedly involved in numerous issues with his coaches and teammates, including an infamous in-game shouting match with his Northport head coach Pido Jarencio. This incident possibly gave the Northport management the perfect reason to dispatch him to TNT, who then traded him too after his short-lived stint which lasted for only eight months.

Days after he was sent to the Beermen, reports surfaced that about seven TNT players wanted Romeo off the roster, citing the possibility of ruining team chemistry. Add that to the fact that Romeo has had run-ins with some of the Beermen in the past, including Santos and Lassiter. It would be interesting to see how the team will retain the team dynamics with Romeo around.

“I don’t know if it’s going to be awkward but he’s my teammate now and if he wants to say something from the past that’s him… I just want to play, I’m just going to play the way I’ve been playing and focus on winning a championship and that’s the most important thing… If he wants to be part of it that’s great and let’s keep it going,” Lassiter said.

“Romeo will need to integrate into SMB’s system, which revolves around the idea of team basketball—that is, moving the ball and finding the highest percentage shot

Talent-wise, there’s no doubting Romeo’s skill set—he can explode anytime while also creating opportunities for his teammates. He’s one of the best isolation players the league has seen, and given that SMB already has players who are just as good as him when it comes to scoring, managing the minutes of their stars is a good problem to have.

As unfair as it may seem, the Beermen had never had to worry about racking up points. Their backcourt consists of sharpshooters and crunch time players and on the front court, they have Fajardo and Standhardinger. Romeo will need to integrate into SMB’s system, which revolves around the idea of team basketball—that is, moving the ball and finding the highest percentage shot.

The underlying truth is that Romeo may have found himself a home, an organization that fosters a winning culture. Many teams lost interest in the former FEU star due to his reputation, but SMB firmly believes that Romeo just needs to be put on the right track. His stint with a respectable team like San Miguel could be Romeo’s last and best chance to redeem himself.

“Many found the trade of quality bench players like Brian Heruela and David Semerad for a controversial guard  as a huge gamble given the former Northport and TNT player’s abrasive reputation

In spite of how many people thought of the move as a risk the Beermen shouldn’t have taken, SMB, after all, had nothing to lose when they went after the young star. If things fall into place, the Beermen will secure another top player who can potentially become their franchise cornerstone in the future. But if things fall off course and SMB fails to help Romeo become the player he can be, they can easily trade him for a much efficient and drama-free player.

Despite all these, Beermen head coach Leo Austria is optimistic that the issues will be resolved, especially now that he’ll be part of a team that values discipline and respect—two of the significant attitudes that make up a championship pedigree team.

“Every time there are new players on the team, the incumbent ones will have to size him up and he too has to size his new teammates up. It will take a few days to be familiarized with the team,” Austria said.

“If things fall into place, the Beermen will secure another top player who can potentially become their franchise cornerstone in the future. But if things fall off course and SMB fails to help Romeo become the player he can be, they can easily trade him for a much efficient and drama-free player.

In light of the early season distress, the PBA board believes that San Miguel is still the team to beat and has all the right pieces to claim their fifth straight All-Filipino Cup title.

“Everyone agrees that San Miguel is the strongest team and they’ve just gotten stronger this year with the addition of Terrence and a few other players,” NLEX governor Rod Franco said.