THE Philippine Basketball Association (PBA), led by Commissioner Willie Marcial, hopes to take the lead in 2021 as professional sports look to recover lost ground following the deadly coronavirus outbreak.
Marcial said the PBA plans to get even more busy this year with several activities, including the PBA Best Player of the Conference Virtual Awarding Ceremony, the Rookie Draft and the opening of the league’s 46th season, already in the calendar.
Speaking at the “Usapang Sports on Air” by the Tabloids Organization in Philippine Sports (TOPS) via Zoom, Marcial believes the new year would be a lot better than the previous coronavirus-hit season.
“The PBA is confident we can do a lot better this year. We have been talking to a lot of groups, including the IATF before deciding on what we will do,” said Marcial during the weekly public service program sponsored by the Philippine Sports Commission (PSC), Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR) and Games and Amusements Board (GAB).
“Right now, we’re still carefully looking at the situation. We have PBA Board meeting on Jan. 27. We will decide if we can have a three-conference or two-conference season. Siguro we can make a final decision by Febraury or March,” Marcial told sports editors, columnists and reporters of the country’s newest sports organization.
“Titignan natin kung available na yun vaccine. Titignan natin kung ano ang papayagan ng IATF at ano ang proseso na pwede nating gawin. Titignan natin kung anong klaseng bubble ang maaari, kung closed circuit-bubble ba ito na home-gym-home,” he added.
Marcial claimed the PBA is still looking at holding three conferences this year, including one with imports.
“Kung kakayanin, tatlong conference talaga ang plano. If not, dalawa. We will have the Philippine Cup and possibly the Governors’ Cup with one import.”
“By August, baka may vaccine na. Kung papayagan na magpunta dito mga imports at kung anong klaseng quarantine ang ipatutupad natin. Gusto talaga natin na may mga imports para may ibang mapanood ang mga tao.”
Marcial claimed the PBA is willing to spend for the procurement of government-approved vaccine for the players.
“But we also understand that there are other priorities as to who should get the vaccine first. Syempre, dapat natin unahin yun mga frontliners, pati na yun mga matatanda.”
Marcial also expressed confidence that the fans will be finally allowed to watch the games.
“Malaking bagay talaga yun may mga nanonood na fans, lalo na sa mga players natin. Kahit sana kalahati ng capacity ng venue mapayagan subject to health and safety protocols.”
Marcial said he agreed with the suggestion of San Miguel Corp. sports director Alfrancis Chua to consider holding a bubble at the Araneta Coliseum or other smaller venues in Metro Manila.
“Gusto sana talaga namin na sa Metro Manila yun gagawing bubble para malapit sa pamilya ng mga players. Pero titignan natin kung pwede na. Depende sa sitwasyon.”
Asked about the highly-successful PBA Philippine Cup bubble held in Clark, Pampanga, Marcial admitted the league also encountered several problems.
“Ang malaking bagay talaga ay yun mental health. Yun first month, hirap na hirap ang mga players natin. Mahirap yun kalagayan nila sa bubble. May nanganganak ang misis, may birthday ang anak, may namatay ang lola pero hindi makalabas dahil nasa bubble. Kaya nga humahanga sila sa mga OFWs na malayo sa pamilya,” explained Marcial.
Testing is another challenge experienced by the PBA.
“Medyo na-stress kami. Ginagawa naman namin ang lahat ng paghihigpit pero may nag positive pa din. Iniisip namin sa gym ba ito or sa mga empleyado ng hotel. Yun pala false positive,” he said.
“Madaming mga challenges nun nasa bubble kami, pero mas madami ang blessings.”
Marcial also gave his thumbs-up on Phoenix Super LPG superstar Calvin Abueva, who excelled during bubble play in his return from an indefinite suspension.
“Masaya kami hindi lang sa naging performance ni Calvin sa PBA bubble, kundi pa na din sa naging attitude niya (after his return from suspension),” said Marcial.
“Malaki ang naging pagbabago. Hindi lang siguro 360 degree kundi doble pa. Kahit sino tumumba, tinutulungan nya. Hind na nambu-bully, hindi na nang-aasar. I called him last week at maayos na talaga ang lahat kasama ang pamilya niya.”