Virus forces PBA to alter plans


    THE specter of last year’s sad experience is haunting the PBA anew, prompting the pro league to tinker with its plans for the coming season, a two-conference format supposed to run for 10 months.

    Commissioner Willie Marcial yesterday said the season-opening Philippine Cup’s kickoff would now be on April 18, instead of April 11, but that remains an iffy proposition.

    “Di pa sure, depende pa rin sa mga kaso (of the virus), sa gobyerno,” Marcial told Malaya-Business Insight.

    “Parang nangyari lang last year. Nagsimula ako ng August, napunta ng September. Naglaro tayo umpisa na ng October,” added Marcial, referring to last season where only the Philippine Cup was salvaged due to the COVID-19 outbreak that turned into a pandemic.

    “Na-adjust ng na-adjust dahil sa mga pangyayari noon.”

    The same could be true this time because of COVID, which continues to rear its ugly head on the country, with last Tuesday marking the fifth straight day wherein more than 4,000 new infections were reported.

    That only served to stoke Marcial’s concerns. “Kung kailan tayo mag-uumpisa, saka lalong lumalalala,” he quipped.

    Most of the country’s cases have been reported in Metro Manila and that is the primary reason why Marcial settled on the Ynares Center in Antipolo as the venue of the games. But that still depends on the approval of the concerned government agencies.

    “Nag-usap na kami ni Gov. (Junjun) Ynares,” related Marcial. “Mukhang wala namang problema basta pumayag ‘yung mga ahensya.  Pero nag-uusap-usap pa lang kami. Wala pang final.”

    After last Sunday’s rookie draft, several teams have started inquiries on whether they could conduct full 5-on-5 practices on their own outside the Big City, in areas under the less restrictive MGCQ quarantine level.

    Metro Manila, although still under GCQ, is currently prohibiting sports-related mass gatherings and all 12 teams are mandated to hold small group practices involving five players at a time.

    Marcial said the teams could do so provided they meet all the requirements  “Kailangan permission ng LGU at depende kung MGCQ ‘yung lugar,” he said.

    “Kailangang papayagan ng JAO, ng GAB, titingnan muna iyon (venue). Tapos disinfection, safety and health protocols, madami iyon,” added Marcial, referring to the policy-making body made up of representatives from the Department of Health, IATF, GAB and PSC.

    To streamline the process, Marcial said he has been in talks with the concerned government agencies to gain permission for such full practices. “Para isang paalamanan na lang,” he explained.

    Once approval is secured Marcial already has an outline of how those full practice sessions, tentatively set to run for two weeks, would be conducted.

    “Bibigyan namin sila ng practice lahat sa Antipolo,” said Marcial.

    “Tapos sa Ynares may gym na malapit na walang aircon,” added Marcial. “Bibigyan namin sila ng dalawang oras kada araw. Pero siguro every other day sila puwede.”

    Practice times could be longer and could even be held on a daily basis should they secure a third practice venue.

    “May eskuwelahan din doon (Antipolo), baka mag three courts pa ako,” related Marcial.

    “Pag nakuha iyon everyday sila.”

    Despite the nagging doubts the PBA still hopes to finish the first conference sometime in August through a Wednesday-Friday-Saturday-Sunday schedule each week.

    The six-month Governors Cup is projected to wind up by February next year.