By Michael Angelo S. Murillo, Senior Reporter
RECOGNIZING that it still has to deal with the coronavirus pandemic in 2021, the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) is not rushing and is carefully assessing the direction to take for its Season 46.
In an interview over the Power and Play with Noli Eala radio program on Saturday, PBA Commissioner Willie Marcial shared that the league is still in the process of weighing its options.
Nothing is definite yet as far as the kind of form its next season will take, considering how fluid the situation is with the pandemic, which remains a concern.
They, however, said they will try to start Season 46 on the league’s anniversary on April 9 either in another “bubble” setup or a closed-circuit setting.
“We’ll see what the situation is with the vaccine, if by April there will be one already. We’re looking at the type of bubble the season would be played, the venue, the economy, and whether the government would allow the PBA to play. I cannot answer that at the moment. But maybe by February or March, we’ll have more clarity,” said Mr. Marcial.
The PBA chief went on to say that the aim is still to have a full complement of three conferences this year, but if it is not possible, they are angling to at least have two.
Whether the league would have an import-laden tournament is still up in the air, Mr. Marcial said, as it hinges on the prevailing conditions with the pandemic by that time.
The PBA is coming off a successful bubble tournament at Clark City in Angeles City, Pampanga, from October to early December after activities were suspended because of the pandemic early last year.
In the bubble, participants were holed up in a controlled environment in Clark for the duration of the tournament, following strict health and safety protocols to guard against the spread of the coronavirus.
It hit some rough patches, including “positive scare,” but the league was able to survive it and finish the Philippine Cup with the Barangay Ginebra San Miguel Kings crowned as champions.
Mr. Marcial said the bubble did not come cheap, amounting to some P70 million to be staged, but he was happy to report that they were somehow able to recover it although he did not provide details.
Given that, they are factoring it as well in planning for Season 46.
An alternative setup is the closed-circuit setting, which was employed during the team practices in the lead up to the tournament bubble.
In it, players have their travel limited as much as possible to home-to-game venue and back, and their movements and health monitored closely by their teams and the league to preserve the integrity of the tournament.
Mr. Marcial shared that provisions for vaccines are also being planned by the league.
“I hope we can buy the vaccine for the players and those who are in need. Maybe the teams can carry the costs for that. They can shoulder the vaccination for their own players, and we’ll vaccinate our own employees and referees,” he said.
He was quick to say though they have not talked to the government about it yet but they are already laying down the plan just in case.
Meanwhile, Mr. Marcial said the deadline for application for this year’s rookie draft is on Jan. 27 with the draft itself happening on March 14.
Details for the draft are still being finalized, including if there will be another special Gilas draft just like last time around.
“We’ll meet with the board of governors after all the applications are in to decide on how the drafting will go. The SBP (Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas) hasn’t decided yet whether or not they need one (Gilas draft) because they don’t know who will declare for the draft,” said Mr. Marcial.
In the last rookie draft, a special selection was made for Gilas in line with the SBP mission of putting a pool of players who will be available for the national team for future competitions, including the 2023 FIBA World Cup, where the Philippines is one of the hosts.
Selected in the draft were Isaac Go, Rey Suerte, Matt and Mike Nieto, and Allyn Bulanadi.
Mr. Marcial said that because of the pandemic, there will be no draft combine this year, but he is bullish of the kind of talent available.
“For sure, we’ll reach the third and fourth round. There are a lot of players available, including those who graduated from the UAAP (University Athletic Association of the Philippines) and the NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association), and those from the MPBL (Maharlika Pilipinas Basketball League) and those from Chooks-to-Go Pilipinas 3×3 who said they will enter.”