Coach Caloy Garcia believes beating five-time PBA Philippine Cup champion San Miguel Beer will be a huge confidence-booster even though the Beermen won't have six-time league MVP June Mar Fajardo in the bubble.
Garcia reminded everyone that the Beermen are the defending champions and they have an intact core that will try to keep their All-Filipino championship streak going in the PBA restart.
"The nice thing is we play San Miguel. They are the defending champions and you can gauge right away your game. I believe San Miguel is still the team to beat," Garcia said, heading to their 4 p.m. collision with the Beermen on Tuesday (One Sports and PBA Rush) at the Angeles University Foundation Sports Arena and Cultural Center.
"If we can compete with them and have a good game, then you can boost your confidence in the entire conference," he stressed.
Fajardo didn't join SMB in the PBA bubble to continue rehabbing his right shin, which he injured several months ago.
Meanwhile, with San Miguel also looking for a way to get its players' conditioning back, Garcia feels they are in an equal footing in the All-Filipino Cup restart.
"Both teams haven't played for the last eight months so anything can happen," he said.
With no player averaging more than 28 minutes per game, Garcia said he'll have to dig deep into his bench, which means giving playing time to rookies Adrian Wong, Clint Doliguez, Prince Rivero and Vince Tolentino.
"By now, our rookies are all eager to play but they also have to adjust," he said. "Here at Rain or Shine, we've always been known for using all players. If we use more players inside bubble, like three times in one week, I think that becomes an advantage as long as everybody is prepared to play."
The Elasto Painters will be facing a Beermen side that remains a formidable unit with Arwind Santos, Terrence Romeo, Alex Cabagnot, Chris Ross and Mo Tautuaa.
James Yap, now entering his 17th season, is excited to be back, admitting the seven-month-long PBA absence has given him ample time to recover from a groin injury.
"The long break has helped me recover from my injury, but then what I'm doing now is also double time on my conditioning because I don't want to get injured again," said Yap.