THERE’S no better way to welcome the 2021 basketball season than talking to Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) Commissioner Willie Marcial.
Marcial, who guested in the “Usapang Sports on Air” by the Tabloids Organization in Philippine Sports (TOPS) last Jan. 7 — the first for the new year — was clearly the man of the hour as far as the country’s favorite pastime is concerned.
Marcial was greatly responsible for the success of the PBA 45th season held insde the NBA-inspired bubble in Clark, Pampanga from October to December 2020.
He is also now widely expected to lead the PBA in its 46th season despite the resurgence of the deadly coronavirus pandemic.
TOPS editors and reporters asked all the questions that the entire basketball nation had on minds.
Marcial provided the answers.
What can you say about the PBA and the new year 2021?
“The PBA is confident we can do a lot better this year. We were caught by surprise with the outbreak of the the coronavirus last season, but we managed to still hold one conference (PBA Philippine Cup) in Angeles, Pampanga.
This year, we are talking to a lot of groups, including the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) and Games and Amusements Board (GAB), so we can better prepare. We are willing to listen to what they have to say.”
What’s the plan for the 46th season of the PBA, with the opening tentatively set on April 9?
“We’re still carefully studying the situation. We plan to hold a PBA board meeting either on Jan. 27 or Jan. 28. We have a lot of decisions to make. We have to decide if we can still have the regular three-conference format or maybe just two conferences. We have to wait for the availability of the vaccine and decide on what kind of bubble we will adopt whether or not it will be a closed-circuit bubble and where it will be held.”
Do you plan to bring in imports in the PBA this season?
“We really intend to have at least one conference with imports. By August, baka may vaccine na. We will see kung papayagan na ng IATF na makapunta yun mga imports dito. Gusto namin malaman kung anong klaseng quarantine ang hihingin ng government. Pero gusto talaga namin na may imports para na din may ibang mapapanood ang mga tao.”
What will be the role of the PBA in the formation of the Gilas Pilipinas national team for the coming FIBA Asia Cup Window 3 qualifying tournament which the Samahang Basketball ng Pilipinas (SBP) is hosting in Pampanga next month?
“The PBA and the SBP hope to meet with the players and discuss the matter this week. I do not want to announce the names of the players yet, but we have already received their commitment to play for the national team.”
What can you say about the PBA plan to hold its first-ever 3×3 tournament as recommended by PBA vice chairman Bobby Rosales to be held before the opening of the regular season in April?
“One of the topics we will discuss during the board meeting sometime this month is the inaugural PBA 3×3 competition. A stand-alone event, the 3×3 competition was supposed to kick off last year side-by-side with the Philippine Cup but the COVID-19 put things to a standstill. Pag-uusapan namin ng committee headed by Richard Bachmann of Alaska Milk kung ano ang sistema ng tournament, saan ba namin ito gagawin at kung papayagan ba ito ng IATF.”
What do you think about the coming PBA Rookie Draft scheduled on March 14?
“Unlike before, it will now be virtual rookie draft, with television coverage. I think it’s a deep, talent-laden rookie draft. But the list is not yet final dahil kadalasan madami nag-submit ng application last two days na, pero sa tingin ko malalim ito gaya nung time nila Benjie Paras, Nelson Asaytono at Bong Alvarez nun 1989. Kung tama ang naiisip ko, madaming darating na magagaling na mga players mula sa ABL, UAAP, NCAA at MPBL, pati yun sa Chooks-to-Go. Baka umabot pa yun draft ng third to fourth round.”
Is there a plan to hold a separate PBA Gilas draft?
“We are still waiting for the list of applicants from Gilas. We will discuss kung papaano gagawin ito at kung magiging special draft ito.”
What about the Fil-Am applicants, including members of Alab Pilipinas?
“Kung ano hinihingi namin several years ago, like DOJ at BID confirmation, ganun pa din. It will be unfair sa mga dati na talagang kumuha. But we will consider it after a few years, lalo na iba na ang panahon ngayon. Titignan natin kung pwede na din maglaro yun dual citizen.”
What can you say about Kai Sotto, Thirdy Ravena and other players who excel in playing abroad?
“Saludo ako sa kanila. Malaking bagay na napapa-angat din nila ang ating bansa dahil sa kanilang mga talento. Malaking karangalan ang naibigbigay nila sa atin.”
What’s the plan of the PBA to hold games with the fans in attendance?
“Thats part of our plan. We will ask the IATF and GAB na mapayagan na kahit kalahati ng capacity ng venue na kung saan kami maglalaro. Sana mapayagan na, gaya sa mga restaurants subject to health and safety protocols.
Iba talaga yun feeling na may mga fans na nanonood sa games, lalo na para sa mga players.”
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