PBA most likely to open new season in May

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    THE alarming spike in COVID-19 cases in the country and the government’s response to the frightening surge has put a shroud of uncertainty on the coming PBA season.

    There are several things Commissioner Willie Marcial is sure of for now, including the pro league targeting a May opening and pushing through with a 10-month, two conference season.

    “Mag-mi-meeting kami next week, special Board meeting,” Marcial told Malaya-Business Insight yesterday. “Paguusapan na doon kung paano.

    “Pero ‘yung (April) 18 opening, patay na iyon. Malamang sa hindi May na tayo mag-start,” added Marcial. “Kung hindi na tataas pa mga kaso. Sana by that time okay na.”

    Marcial spoke after it was announced that Metro Manila and the provinces of Laguna, Rizal, Cavite and Bulacan would remain under ECQ for another week starting today.

    That means the PBA’s operations would remain on hold, including the special Board meeting set this week, derailing the erstwhile April 18 target date for its opening.

    The league is hoping the cases would taper down so the quarantine level in the so-called NCR-Plus bubble would be eased to allow teams to continue working out and eventually do full contact practices.

    Marcial said that for sure, the PBA would still push through with its calendar. “Kahit May tayo mag-umpisa, tama pa rin ‘yung tapos ng season by February next year,” he said.

    The PBA had planned to hold a four-month Philippine Cup preceding a six-month Governors Cup. Both tournaments would be played in a semi-bubble format wherein all participants would be restricted to a home-venue-home routine with the Ynares Center in Antipolo as venue.

    Marcial admitted the PBA took a big financial hit when it was forced to hold just the Philippine Cup through a Clark bubble last season, a venture that reportedly cost P65 million, not counting the lost revenues in live gate attendance.

    “Hindi masu-sustain lang ng isang conference ang pera. Ang dami ng nawala nu’ng last season. Kailangang mabawi iyon kaya talagang desidido tayo na mag-two conferences tayo ngayon,” said Marcial.

    There are several question marks surrounding both conferences, however, foremost of which is where the tournaments would be held since Rizal province is currently one of the COVID hotspots in the NCR-Plus.

    “Bubble is out of the question as of now,” said Marcial. “Pinakamalapit Binan or Ynares. Wala, bawal din sa Laguna. At saka bibiyahe ka araw-araw papunta doon? Talagang Antipolo lang pinaka-praktikal.”

    Everything, stressed Marcial, hinges on whether the prevailing COVID-related conditions would turn for the better in the coming days

    “Depende lahat sa kung ano lagay ng pandemya na ito,” said Marcial. “Masyadong marami ang pinahihirapan.”