After the horrific injury to June Mar Fajardo, the San Miguel Beermen are entering the Philippine Cup of the new PBA season on a low note. The tides have quickly shifted against the five-time champions. After all, Fajardo is the San Miguel’s main man and perhaps, the most dominant PBA player ever.
With the Beermen missing his services for the upcoming conference, their reign as five time defending champions are now hanging in the balance. But don’t count out the defending champs, yet.
While Fajardo’s absence is a big blow, the Beermen is still a team that is more than capable of winning the title. They are a stacked team with players of multiple championship experience. The additions of Russell Escoto and Gelo Alolino provide a boost to their bench. But the more important thing is that the Beermen still have their core group last conference sans Fajardo.
With the MVP out, there is no one more valuable now for the Beermen than Chris Ross.
The third overall pick in the 2009 draft, Ross has always been one of the more underrated players in the league. While his first few years in the PBA were productive but rather silent, he found his niche with San Miguel after getting traded in 2013.
During SMB’s five-year reign in the PBA, Ross has played a crucial role for the team in maintaining their winning ways. It can actually be argued that he is the Beermen’s second most important player after Fajardo. That’s because the dynamic guard does it all for the Beermen.
He can pass the ball with precision, drive to the hoop with confidence and is one of the best finishers on fast break situations. He defends like crazy and yes, he can shoot the damn ball. He actually led the team in three point percentage in the 2019 Philippine Cup at 48%. He is also a great rebounding point guard.
In the past Philippine Cup conference, he averaged nearly nine points, six rebounds and eight assists per game. The numbers back-up the all-around game he brings to the table for the Beermen. It’s also further proof of how Ross has grown to be one of the elite players in the game today.
While he can fill up the stat sheet on any given night, his value to the team goes way beyond the box score. He’s the one that dictates the tempo of the game for the Beermen. Being a true point guard as he is, Ross knows exactly when to push the ball or when to slow things down to set the table up for their half-court offense.
Now that San Miguel will not have the luxury of dumping the ball into the post, the responsibility for Ross to dictate their offense becomes heavier. Ross will be tasked to be the one to command where and to whom to distribute the ball to. He will now manage looking for their quick triggers such as Marcio Lassiter, Von Pessumal and Arwind Santos or allowing shot makers like Alex Cabagnot and Terrence Romeo to do their thing.
Ross is also a savant on the defensive end. He is San Miguel’s primary defender on the wings and has always finished on the top of the league in terms of steals per game, averaging two steals per game, in the last Philippine Cup.
Ross’s greatest commodity, however, is his unquestionable leadership for this squad. He plays his heart out every game and is one of the PBA’s ultimate competitors. He will fight for every loose ball, willingly take charges in the lane and even lock down bigger players when needed.
If Fajardo is the ice that kills opponents with his stone cold dominance in the paint, Ross is the fire that lights up this San Miguel team with his passionate play and intangibles on the court.
Even if that ice cold monster will be gone for a while, expect the fire to keep burning for the Beermen.
Ross is an elite two way player and could possibly enter the conversation on the best point guards to ever play in the PBA once his career is done. His seven championships, Best Player of the Conference plum in the 2017 Commissioner’s Cup and two Philippine Cup Finals MVP awards more than speak for themselves.
San Miguel Beermen’s infamous fab five has owned the Philippine Cup for the past five years. But now, the anchor of that fab five is gone. It is now up for the rest of the Beermen to continue sailing the ship despite the tidal waves facing them in the coming season.
If San Miguel want to successfully defend their crown, it has to be Chris Ross commanding that ship.