Cancellation of PBA 45th season now an option; rookies to retain freshman status
The cancellation of the Philippine Basketball Association looms as a possibility as the country continues to grapple with the new coronavirus disease (COVID-19) crisis.
“With the [enhanced community quarantine] extension, there’s really a strong possibility of playing just one conference or worst, just cancel the entire season altogether,” PBA commissioner Willie Marcial told the Inquirer last Friday.
President Duterte extended the ECQ in Metro Manila until May 15. The PBA was looking to reopen in June, but Marcial said teams should have at least one month to prepare before plunging into action.
While Marcial is hoping to have at least one conference for the 45th season, he is also preparing for the eventuality of the cancellation—and the impact it will have on the league.
For one, all three conferences will retain their champions from Season 44, meaning San Miguel Beer will get a crack at defending its all-Filipino crown—which it has held for five straight seasons—with June Mar Fajardo back in tow.
The Beermen looked vulnerable this season despite opening with a victory in the only game played before the ECQ shut the league as Fajardo was supposed to sit out several months to heal a broken leg. But Fajardo, who has started jogging already, is expected to be back next season.
D-L requirement waived
Rookies drafted this year will retain their freshman status, opening up a bumper crop of neophytes next season when an additional batch is drafted.
And the league is expected to waive the one-season D-League requirement for prospective rookies since the developmental league of the PBA will also be scrapped.
NLEX coach Yeng Guiao said he is hoping for the best.
“One conference would be fine, but I’m still hoping we could do two conferences,” said Guiao, who fears that the league could face some repercussions if the season is scrapped.
“Scrapping the whole season would be really sad and it could set the whole league back and would let the MPBL or some other league take advantage of the vacuum,” he added.
Marcial acknowledged the concern and also hoped the situation gets better so the league can get at least the all-Filipino going. But he will not shoehorn a season unless Metro Manila is declared risk-free from the pandemic.
“It’s not just also about the safety of our players and staff, but their families at home,” Marcial said.
The PBA chief said any restart is contingent on the government declaring that it is safe to hold mass gatherings and that teams will have one month to prepare before actual games are played.
The PBA’s next move will depend on the decision of the board chaired by Ricky Vargas of TNT.
“I’m in constant communication with the board and chairman Vargas on this matter,” Marcial added.
Also expected to be discussed in the event of a season cancellation is the welfare of game-day league workers who will be without jobs and pay.
The PBA has mitigated that impact so far, with Marcial saying the league has dipped into spillover revenue from last year to help pay those workers.
But with no league revenue for a season, the board is expected to find revenue sources to help its game-day staff.