WHAT was supposed to be a grand celebration has turned into an agonizing wait for the PBA.
Asia’s pioneering pro basketball league, marking its 45th year this season, was forced into an indefinite cancellation by the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.
All the planned activities have been put on hold along with the games and league Commissioner Willie Marcial is among those who can’t do anything until the go-signal is given by the proper government agencies.
“Foremost sa mga agencies na iyan iyung DOH (Department of Health) at saka DILG (Department of the Interior and Local Government),” offered Marcial.
“Sila ang magsasabi kung p’wede na nating i-resume mga games natin.”
Marcial just doesn’t know when that thumbs-up would be given. “The sooner the better talaga, pero wala talagang makakapagsabi kung kailan,” he stated.
The PBA has now been suspended for exactly three weeks as of yesterday, having played only a sinle game last March 8.
Apart from the PBA and PBA D-League games, all side activities of the league and team practices have also been suspended “until further notice.”
The longer COVID-19 persists, the more the PBA sked would be pushed back with an August resumption the earliest Marcial could hope for.
“Pero day-to-day basis nga iyan,” Marcial hastens to add. “Once na dumating go-signal, kailangan pa ng teams ng a little time para makapag-practice ulit.”
Other professional cage leagues in the region likewise faced the initial predicament but have come up with eerily similar ways of solving their own dilemma.
The Japanese B.League suspended operations, came back briefly, and ultimately cancelled its whole season last week. The Japanese were wrapping up the regular season and were on their way to the playoffs.
As a result, all division leaders technically won their respective division titles. Alvark Tokyo, the reigning two-time champion, ended up with the best overall record by only half a game though no overall champion was crowned.
In South Korea, the KBL also terminated its season, ending the year early for the first time in league history per Jumpball Korea.
The KBL kept its current rankings, with the Wonju DB Promy and Seoul SK Knights, Finals protagonists two seasons ago but out of the playoffs last year, being officially recorded as the top teams by virtue of their current regular season records.
In China, where the outbreak started, the CBA is also suspended but is planning a restart. The original plan was to resume on April 15 after already 11 weeks of suspension. However, that plan has been pushed back until May as the league seeks government approval, according to ESPN’s Brian Windhorst.
The PBA can’t exactly follow the path of the KBL and the Japanese League as it has only played one game for the new season.
The season could last well into the second quarter of next year depending on how things go with the community quarantine as the PBA still has pretty much the whole of its three-conference schedule coming up.
The PBA can go the route of having closed-door games when the season resumes. The Japanese league held games without an audience when it came back briefly following its initial suspension.
Suspending the entire season and starting with a clean slate next year is out of the question, said Marcial, because of the numerous commitments to the sponsors and the teams.
“May certain number of games na kailangan ng teams ang exposure, and mayroon ding certain number of spots na kailangang ma-meet for our advertisers for this season alone,” explained Marcial.
“Kailangan magampanan natin iyung mga obligasyon na iyon.”
Just don’t ask when.
“Siguro dati magtatapos tayo ng Feb., [ngayon] magtatapos tayo ng March, April. Depende nga sa sitwasyon natin dito sa coronavirus,” said Marcial.
“Pag–a-aralan natin kung anong nangyayari sa COVID-19. Kung paayos naman, siguro dahan-dahanin natin, baka p’wedeng mag-closed door muna.
“Pero pag lumala, sabay-sabay tayong kailangan maghintay.”