PBA welcomes rookies, few rule changes and tweaked format as new season opensBy Celest R. Flores
MANILA, Philippines — A new franchise, fresh faces, overhauled uniforms and a tweaked format are just few of the indications that the PBA is headed to another exciting ride this season.
As the 38th edition of the PBA kicks off Sunday, league commissioner Chito Salud is nothing optimistic that the surge of support will continue throughout the season.
They will start with reformatting the old semifinals scheme, which led to games with lesser or zero stakes.
“Our format will be exciting for the three conferences, eliminating no bearing games and low incentive games,” said Salud at the pre-season press conference at the Diamond Hotel Wednesday.
“Every game will count,” Salud continued.
From round-robin semifinals, the teams will have a lot more riding on getting the top two spots for the golden twice-to-beat edge in the quarterfinals.
The middle of the pack, meanwhile, will have to gut it out in a best-of-three clash just for a slot in the final four in the All-Filipino Cup, Commissioner’s Cup and the Governor’s Cup.
Games in the race-to-three series for the finals spot will always continue to be enjoyed by fans on a daily basis.
Coming off a banner season, where records were broken in terms of gate receipts and new champions were feted, Salud is also banking on the infusion of new talent to make a more leveled playing field.
“We will continue to polish that product to the liking of our fans,” said Salud. “Fans want a balanced competition within 10 teams.”
“In terms of level of comp and the balance in the balance of teams, we’re getting there,” said Salud, referring to last season where two teams, who are not perennial contenders, made it to the finale.
The newcomer Global Port Batang Pier will try to pull off a Cinderella finish this season, but will have to go through nine more established teams.
Under 20 rookies — products of premier collegiate leagues and the PBA D-League — meanwhile, will pump in some more action to the league, which also calibrated some rules for this season.
According to Salud, players who are diving for the ball are now allowed to slide without getting called for a travelling violation, which encourages the value of the intangibles.
“But hey have to dribble the ball before standing up,” continued Salud, who is also open to having a “retro week” as more and more teams are rocking the throwback jerseys.
In terms of better officiating, Salud said the league is continuing to prune down the referees for the best to remain.
In the past two years, Salud has cut down from 22 to 14, and has harvested three more from the academy for this season.
The opening ceremonies is promised to be a one big show at the Smart Araneta Coliseum, from the video technology to the select squad’s muses, who will cater to the youth — from Artista Academy to seasoned actress Alice Dixon.