PBA teams welcomed at Clark

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    AFTER nearly eight months of inaction, Magnolia has more free time after arriving at the PBA bubble site at the Clark Freeport and Economic Zone.

    Hotshots coach Chito Victolero likens it to the calm before the storm.

    “Kapag nag-umpisa na scrimmages tuloy-tuloy na iyan,” Victolero told Malaya-Business Insight yesterday.

    “Tapos iyung games pa mismo na halos every other day pa,” added Victolero. “Kaya sigurado pag ganyan na wala halos pahinga, it would be a matter of patibayan, palaliman na lang ito.”

    Victolero spoke the day after Magnolia became the first team to enter Clark, site of the PBA bubble aimed to salvage the Philippine Cup that was put on hold since last March 11 due to the COVID pandemic.

    Phoenix, TNT, Terra Firma and Meralco also arrived at Clark on Monday and were also required to start observing strict safety and health protocols being implemented for the league to meet its Oct. 11 restart.

    Defending champion San Miguel Beer, Ginebra, Rain or Shine, Alaska, NLEX, NorthPort and Blackwater trekked to the former US base yesterday.

    Sec. Vince Dizon and CDC chief Noel Manankil led local officials who welcomed the new arrivals and personally saw to it the entry protocols were followed.

    “Kita n’yo naman, every protocol is being followed,” said Dizon in a mid-afternoon press conference.  “These measures we have put into place are very orderly, very efficient but also very safe for those coming here.”

    Upon arriving at the Quest Hotel for their billeting and accommodations, all players and team personnel were tested anew and follow as much as a two-day isolation in their respective rooms.

    “Ang sabi sa amin, 24 to 48 hours bago makuha (ang) results,” Victolero said.

    Only after getting negative results could the teams start full practices at the AUF gym, where official games would be played until Dec. 15 at the latest.

    “Sana nga, gusto namin, today makapag-plano kami ng puwede naming gawin kahit di pa kami makapag-full court,” Victolero said.

    “At least we can go outside, jogging or swimming, at least.  Mayroon silang swimming pool, may oval sila. Mayroong area kung hanggang saan kami p’wedeng lumabas.  Iyon nga lang we need to wait for the results.”

    Afterwards, there will be little rest for Magnolia and the rest of the field since doubleheaders will be played on a daily basis.

    “Ang problema lang kasi dito, medyo tight ‘yung schedule so advantage ‘yung team na can stay healthy, walang ma-i-injure, ‘yun ‘yung malaki tsansang mag-champion,” noted Victolero.

    “Ang tingin ko kasi diyan meron kaming week na tatlo laro, merong week na dalawa lang kami.”

    What gives Magnolia additional motivation over the rest is the fact it lost to SMB 78-94 on opening day, three days before the league was forced to shut down by the pandemic.

    Victolero was quick to point out there is no real advantage there. “In terms of preparation walang may advantage kasi sabay-sabay kami ng lahat ng teams, from individual training to on-court training,” he said.

    “Nu’ng nag-usap-usap kami, sabi ko sa kanila tayo lang may handicap na ganyan, pero itutuloy lang iyung conference,” added the one-time Coach of the Year..

    “We’ll just try to prepare for our next 10 games para kahit papaano makapunta kami sa playoffs. Pagdating naman doon ibang sit’wasyon na naman iyon. Iyon lang naman, one game at a time muna sa next 10 games namin.”