THOSE wanting to wrest the PBA Philippine Cup from the grasp of San Miguel Beer are welcome to try.
More so Barangay Ginebra.
Beermen coach Leo Austria bared that his charges' desire to occupy an even more special place in the league's record books and the challenge recently hurled by the Gin Kings only serve to further stoke the fire under his team.
"Any coach in the PBA naman talagang target ang team namin dahil naka-five-peat na kami (in the Philippine Cup)," said Austria.
"Kaya iyon talaga goal ng bawat coach," added Austria. "What more si (Gin Kings) coach Tim (Cone)? Dahil iyung team naman niya talaga namang contender. Any conference contender iyon."
Immediately after Ginebra annexed its third Governors Cup title in the last four seasons last Friday, Cone declared that their sights are now focused on the Philippine Cup, which starts March 1 to kick off the PBA's 45th season.
"We are certainly going to go for it," said Cone who admitted to getting some prodding from guard LA Tenorio.
"LA came up to me and said, 'We got to win in the all-Filipino. I haven't won an all-Filipino yet.' I think he is going to get everyone keyed up to win," related Cone.
Cone also believes his Gin Kings are now better armed in their bid to end a long title drought in the import-less tournament that dates back to 2007.
"We feel like we have the tools. We are going to have a substantial break so we will be able to kinda recharge our batteries and get keyed up for the all-Filipino," said Cone, specifically referring to Stanley Pringle, Japeth Aguilar and Greg Slaughter.
"Stanley's there as an anchor for the team. Japeth and Greg, they kinda take a step back usually when the imports come but it's their time to step forward," said Cone.
"I think we will have exciting rookies that are coming to the team and I think we will be a more complete all-Filipino team."
Austria had read the story on Cone and said such a challenge, not only from Ginebra, should only be expected. "Understandable naman kasi everybody is hungry for the All-Filipino crown," he pointed out.
"Everybody wants to stop us, that's normal," added Austria. "Lalo na Ginebra. Matagal na silang di nananalo sa All-Filipino. During their championship run nakita potential ng team and, personally, I think capable naman sila. Maganda inilaro nila, siyempre iba na aambisyunin nila "
But the motivation to win a sixth straight Philippine Cup crown is built-in for SMB.
"I hope ma-realize din namin kung ano imprtance nito para sa amin. Five-peat mahirap ng mapantayan iyan, lalong-lalo na six-peat," noted Austria, while also pointing out that his team's failed bid to realize a Grand Slam in the last season acts as additional spur.
" After ng nangyari mas motivated pa mga players," said Austria. "Alam nila na we have to do our best. Alam na nila what's at stake." (NC)