Seeing that headline must have made the two and a half million fans of the men's national baketball team feel sorry for the reigning three-time PBA Most Valuable Player.
Instead, the same people who had cheered for Fajardo versus Senegal during the FIBA World Cup three years ago are now jeering at him after he went down with a strained calf injury in a game against TNT KaTropa. Despite The Kraken's willingness to suit up for the FIBA Asia Cup if his condition improves (he even flew with Gilas to Lebanon), the public has already crucified him for the likelihood of missing the upcoming tournament.
It may seem unfair to pin all the blame on Fajardo, but one also has to understand where the collective frustration of the sport's most valuable fans comes from.
One reason Gilas hasn't been in full strength is because of the one-player-per-team policy, which stemmed from the long-standing issue that some PBA teams are not allowing their players to join the national squad. While a number of cadets have performed with tenacity that's beyond their years, and as the youth movement is slowly bearing fruit, a basketball-crazed nation would want the best possible group to wear the colors of the flag on the world stage.
On top of that, two things have intensified the doubts for the Cebuano slotman not participating.
This isn't the first time he's been embroiled in controversy. In 2015, Fajardo missed the FIBA Asia Championship in China when he opted to rest due to plantar fasciitis on both feet. Without him, Gilas 3.0 earned a hard-fought silver medal.
Then there's the fact that his PBA team, the San Miguel Beermen, is a championship away from its second Grand Slam. Netizens feel that management is preserving Abai for the looming title run. It's interesting to point out that another teammate of Fajardo, Marcio Lassiter, has also been the object of internet ridicule after withdrawing from the national team pool back in 2014.
You'd be wrong to think that the reported absence of prolific foreign behemoths Yi Jianlian, Zhou Qi (China), Quincy Davis (Chinese Taipei), and Steven Adams (New Zealand) could soften the blow of The Kraken being out. Christian Standhardinger (6'8"), Raymond Almazan (6'8"), and Japeth Aguilar (6'9") will still have their hands full with the remaining seven-footers.
Nobody would have batted an eye after The Kraken got hurt if Gilas was able to tap the services of naturalized player Andray Blatche, who has apologized for skipping the tournament. Ginebra's Greg Slaughter could also be viable replacement, if not for his legs that are still recovering and the aformentioned league ruling on loaning players.
But with their all-out support looking like it will be all for naught, don't expect local hoops junkies to hide the disappointment any time soon.
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