By Michael Angelo S. Murillo, Senior Reporter
THE Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) honors standout performers in its tournament “bubble” last year this weekend, including the best player of the conference (BPC) which has six players vying for the award.
To be held virtually on Jan. 17 and broadcast over TV5 and One Sports, the awards proceedings temporarily take the place of the annual Leo Awards of the PBA, with tweaks made on the honors to be given out since only one tournament was played in 2020 because of the coronavirus pandemic.
In lieu of the most valuable player award traditionally given in a three-conference season, the best player of the conference will be up for grabs, with Stanley Pringle of champion Barangay Ginebra, Ray Parks Jr. and Roger Pogoy of TNT, Matthew Wright and Calvin Abueva of Phoenix Super LPG, and CJ Perez of Terrafirma in contention.
“It’s not a full season, so it will be the BPC award,” said PBA commissioner Willie Marcial of the decision to make a change in the league’s top individual award.
While he was outside of the top five in statistical points (34.8 SPs), Mr. Pringle made a strong case for himself for the top award by being a steady force for the Kings throughout the bubble at Clark City in Angeles, Pampanga, held from October till December.
In the eliminations, “Stan The Man” averaged 18.7 points, 6.4 rebounds and 3.2 assists for the Kings and was one of the catalysts for his team in the playoffs en route to winning the Philippine Cup.
Mr. Pringle, 33, said what they accomplished in the bubble was already special in itself, but to top it all off with a first-ever BPC award for him will be an added blessing.
TNT’s Parks led in the statistical points with 38.2 SPs on the strength of solid averages of 22.4 points, 7.8 rebounds, 3.1 assists, and 1.5 steals per game throughout the tournament, helping in the process the Tropang Giga to reach the finals.
Unfortunately, he got injured (calf) in Game One that kept him sidelined for the rest of the championship series with TNT bowing to Barangay Ginebra, 4-1.
Teammate Pogoy further raised his stock as a PBA star and gunner in the bubble, going great guns with norms of 18.8 points and 5.6 rebounds in the eliminations.
In the playoffs, particularly in the finals, he took the cudgels for the Tropang Giga when Mr. Parks went down with injury, and later on Jayson Castro (knee), to make it a series against the Kings.
Mr. Wright, for his part, was Phoenix’s top scorer with 21.1 points per contest to go along with 5.5 assists and 4.4 rebounds.
Through his leadership, the Fuel Masters made significant strides in the league, coming to within a win away from barging into their first finals appearance.
“To be considered for the award is already special, but to win it would be a huge deal,” said Mr. Wright.
His teammate, Mr. Abueva, did not get to play from the start of the tournament bubble as his league suspension was still in effect, but once he got the nod to return, he more than made up for lost time.
He only played six games in the eliminations, but produced solid numbers of 13.7 points and team-best 10.7 rebounds and 6.7 assists.
In the playoffs, Mr. Abueva was his usual go-getting and do-it-all self, which made TNT sweat in the semifinals before it got to book a stop in the finals.
Terrafirma struggled anew in the Philippine Cup, managing to notch only one victory, but a constant bright spot was Mr. Perez.
The Lyceum standout was the scoring champion in the PBA for the second straight year with an average of 24.4 points.
He also posted 6.8 rebounds, 4.3 assists and two steals for the Dyip, enough to keep hopes of better days ahead for the team alive.
For the BPC award, SPs make up 40% of the total tally. The rest is composed of votes from the media (30%), players (25%), and Commissioner’s Office (5%).
Other awards to be given are outstanding rookie, most improved players, sportsmanship and outstanding/elite five.