Leo Austria sensed a certain characteristic among San Miguel Beer players when he first took over in 2014.
“When I took over this team, the players were hungry. Everyone wanted to win, “Austria told the Inquirer on Friday.” There was no need for us to motivate them. They were already doing it on their own. “
That hunger fueled a push that led to a championship spree, which brought the franchise total in the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) to 27, the league’s richest haul.
Somewhere along the way, though, there has been a slight change. And Austria carefully measured his words to avoid being taken out of context.
“I don’t know if it’s human nature or whatever,” he said.
“There comes a point where you tend to get too familiar with the flow of things. Sometimes, that translates to a drop in effort, ”he said. The drop wasn’t much, just the usual dent that falls organically when teams have a title binge like the Beermens did.
“We needed some changes in our team. And what we are looking for is hunger, “Austria said after San Miguel divested a key piece of his team less than a week ago.
“If we can inject players into our team who are diligent, then it could infect the rest of the team. And I think that’s the key, “he added.
Just a day after saying those words, the San Miguel Beer rebuilding modality sent another important member of its core; Alex Cabagnot, a shooting guard, was sent to Terrafirma in exchange for Simon Enciso.
Cabagnot is the second of San Miguel’s so-called “Death Five” traded to allow the Beermens to become slightly younger. Less than a week ago, he traded veteran Arwind Santos, 40, with NorthPort for bruiser Vic Manuel, 34.
In exchange for 38-year-old Cabagnot, the Beermens took 30-year-old Enciso, a high-energy playmaker with a penchant for long throwing. Enciso has played to win programs like Alaska and TNT, but has not yet won a PBA championship.
It could simply provide the hunger factor Austria is looking for.
Cabagnot averaged 12.3ppg, 3.8rpg and 2.8apg for San Miguel in the last Philippine Cup, where the brewers lost to future TNT champion in the semifinals.
Enciso, meanwhile, was just traded from Blackwater to Terrafirma on 28 September after dropping his career best 13.7 points per game in the latest conference. He has never played a single game with the Dyip.
Immediately after the Santos-Manuel exchange, Austria said that the restyling of the team’s roster is far from over.
“If there is another opportunity, why not?” said Austria, whose club was not in the final in the league’s pandemic era.
Whether the Enciso acquisition will mark the end of San Miguel’s reconstruction remains to be seen.
Reports said the Beermens wanted Dyip Roosevelt’s big man Adams in the deal, but at least two sources said Terrafirma refused and the league removed Adams from the table before approving the trade.
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