Everything is going smoothly so far for San Miguel newcomer Mo Tautuaa, who's already finding his niche in the frontcourt for the Beermen.
Tautuaa said he immediately received a warm welcome from the team and head coach Leo Austria, who had already envisioned an important role for the 30-year-old big man.
"He was just, 'Hey man, we're excited to have you here. We want you to play, give what you can to the team so we'll know how to use you properly.' Just along those lines. I feel like I'm needed here, like I'm wanted here. It felt good," he said Saturday.
To what extent that role will be has yet to be determined by Tautuaa, but he already has a good idea on how he'll fit alongside franchise cornerstone June Mar Fajardo.
"He wants me to complement June Mar. Make sure he and me play together so we can space the floor a little differently for him. Just doing what I can and help out where I can," he explained.
This SMB stint provides Tautuaa his latest chance of extending his offense further away from the basket, which he has successfully done in every conference this year. The Fil-Tongan only threw up 1.27 threes per game to start the season, but that number has risen to 4.6 attempts per contest in the ongoing PBA Governors' Cup.
"I became a little more effective inside and they started double-teaming me, so I had to figure out a different way to attack the rim without being inside. I had to stretch my game out. I've done it before, it was just about rekindling that part of my game," said Tautuaa.
He's only making 25 percent from long range this conference, down from 38 percent on 3.5 shots last Commissioner's Cup, though the threat of a three has already yielded good results in scrimmages, where the Beermen have experimented playing Tautuaa and Fajardo together.
"We played together [last Friday.] It was OK. I had pretty good passes for him, too," grinned Fajardo. "There's a bit more space, but we can also play in the post together."
Fajardo didn't quite say whether or not he preferred playing with Tautuaa over former teammate Christian Standhardinger, but he said the on-court impact of the two players aren't too far apart from each other.
"They play differently but talent-wise, they're both the same," he noted in Filipino. "Christian's game is more focused under the basket mostly, although he's been shooting from the outside too. But I can adjust to whoever I'm playing with on the floor."
"I'm happy that Mo's here. We all know what he can give the team. He can space the floor, he has shooting. That's huge for us, a four (power forward) who can play from outside," he added.
Not lost on Tautuaa is the fact that he will be being able to play for a true title contender while helping the team reach its Grand Slam aspirations.
"I'm excited. When it's all said and done we still have to go out and get it, but it's exciting. It's always been my goal to compete for a championship, but we're contenders this time and we're actually coming for it. It makes it exciting, it makes it fun. They put a lot of emphasis on the championship, even the fans here, so I just want to bring my best game to make sure we're successful," he said.
But another underrated aspect of his arrival is that he'll only have to think about seamlessly meshing with Fajardo instead of innovating ways to contain the five-time MVP on what is admittedly a tall defensive task.
"I've played him for so long and I kind of know how he plays. Now we're on the same side, we're on the same jersey this time. It'll be a little more fun. That way, I know he'll always have my back and I'll always have his. When I have to guard him, it's difficult. Now I don't have to worry about that anymore. Now that task is on my team," Tautuaa said.
It won't take long for Tautuaa to see his former team again as they'll face NorthPort on Wednesday, Oct. 23. The big man, though, said he's focused on taking care of business first in his SMB debut on Sunday against the Columbian Dyip.
"I got a game on Sunday so I'll worry about Wednesday when it comes," he said. "What I'm worried about is making sure I fit the team and bring what I can to the table. I got to wait until tomorrow to wait for his words, see what he means and where I lie with the team."
"I'm trying to fit in where they need me so far, but you can't really tell until you have a game. We'll find out tomorrow and we'll see how I do, how I play, how I fit in and what coach wants me to do," Tautuaa added.