No timetable for Fajardo recovery

Joaquin Henson (The Philippine Star) - February 7, 2020 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines —  San Miguel Beer center June Mar Fajardo is a cinch to bag his sixth straight PBA MVP trophy at the annual Leo Awards Night that will be held when the league opens its 45th season on March 1 but extending the streak to seven has been ruled out after he suffered a complete fracture of his right tibia during a team practice at the Acropolis Gym in Quezon City last Monday.

Fajardo, 30, had intercepted the ball and was all alone to score a layup when he crumpled to the floor, holding his shin. The ball never made it inside the basket. It seemed like Fajardo had a smile when he fell, probably thinking he only slipped. But as the pain set in, his face changed.

“His leg gave in,” said a team insider. “Biglang-bigla.  An ambulance from San Miguel rushed to the gym. June Mar was put on a stretcher and brought to St. Luke’s Global City before noontime.” Orthopedic surgeon Dr. Jose Raul Canlas was called in and he hurried to the hospital to attend to Fajardo. After a battery of tests, Fajardo was cleared to undergo surgery the next day.

The operation started about 3 p.m. last Tuesday and lasted three hours.  It was successful. “It went well but nahirapan lang sila sa operating table kasi ang laki ni June Mar at hindi siya kasya,” continued the insider. “It was a complete fracture. His comeback is still indefinite.”

San Miguel team manager Gee Abanilla said no timetable has been set for Fajardo’s recovery. “We don’t want to pressure June Mar or his doctors,” said Abanilla. “He had actually complained of discomfort in his right shin for a while. Walang pahinga si June Mar with three conferences in the PBA, the FIBA windows, the World Cup and the Southeast Asian Games. He’s been going all-out. I think he deserves a rest. We’re not discussing when he can come back. That’s up to the doctors and how June Mar feels.”

Last season, Fajardo didn’t miss a single PBA game, playing 26 contests in the Philippine Cup, 23 in the Commissioner’s Cup and 12 in the Governors’ Cup.  He averaged 18.9 points and 13 rebounds in 61 outings. Fajardo powered San Miguel to the first and second conference championships and took the Best Player award in the Philippine Cup.

Abanilla said compared to NBA star Paul George’s injury, Fajardo’s isn’t as bad. In August 2014, George suffered a compound fracture of both bones in his lower right leg. Fajardo’s fracture is on one bone. A month after his fall, George was cleared to put weight on his leg and two months later, he was back in the gym shooting jumpers. But he didn’t participate in his first full practice until February the next year and finally returned to action in an NBA game after eight months.

“We’ve scheduled a special mass to pray for June Mar’s recovery,” said Abanilla. “It will take time for June Mar to get back his timing, to be in game-shape. We’re not rushing him. We can’t say when he’ll be back at this point. We’ll make sure June Mar will recover from this. If Paul George could come back from a worse situation, June Mar should be able to return stronger and better. Our consolation is the injury isn’t career-threatening.” A source said Fajardo has already started his rehab.

Abanilla said he’s meeting with the San Miguel coaching staff to decide on whom to tap to fill in Fajardo’s roster spot. “We’re looking at three free agent prospects,” he said. “We’re not doing a trade. We’re reviewing who’s available to back up Mo (Tautuaa) and Billy (Mamaril) at the five position. Yancy (de Ocampo) has a tear in his calf muscle and probably won’t be ready. His contract has expired and he hasn’t been renewed.” Recent acquisition Russel Escoto may also be an option but he’s more of a stretch forward.

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