PBA looks to cram offseason games, Meralco hopes to gauge itself against ‘upgraded’ rivals
The Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) is working on getting its teams to test themselves in a few preseason games before the league kicks off its 46th season.
Meralco coach Norman Black will be among the first to say just how important that is.
“[W]e really don’t know where we stand as far as the other teams [are concerned],” Black told the Inquirer on Saturday.
Black echoed the same problem that Barangay Ginebra head coach Tim Cone said about practices: Players were starting to get tired of playing against each other.
“Right now, the most important thing for us is being in good condition,” Black said of his wards, who have been through two a pair of training camps—one in Ilocos Norte and another in Batangas.
“But like I’ve said, what do I compare that to? I have not seen any other teams play and certainly, I have not played against these other teams,” he added.
Commissioner Willie Marcial said the PBA is already seeking permission from the national government’s pandemic task force to allow teams to conduct friendlies in preparation for Friday’s kickoff.
And there’s a reason why he is rushing to get a go-signal for that.
“We’ll have a really small window to pull it off but we’re still going for it,” the league chief said. “We’re hoping to be booked for a meeting on either Monday or Tuesday so we can get something, even if it’s two days’ worth of friendlies.”
Marcial said he is optimistic, owing to the fact that teams have been training hitch-free in various cities in Batangas.
“(The discussion) will be just about some protocols at this point,” he said.
Training for contact sports has been severely restricted by the national government since the pandemic struck. Only professional combat athletes were able to enjoy a level of exemption.
Professional basketball players, for the most part, were not allowed to train in large groups, unless they did so within a biosecure environment, now referred to as bubbles. Cagers were allowed to stage full-on scrimmages without the need for a highly restrictive setup only last June. That came with a catch: Teams could do so only in low-risk areas.
Tuneup games should come in handy for every PBA ball club but taking part in one should be extra beneficial for the Bolts, who are hoping to replicate their deep, impressive run last year.
During that campaign, Meralco shed its tag of being a capable team only during import-laden tournaments. The Bolts, not even considered as contenders in the tournament, were able to push old tormentor Gin Kings to a deciding Game 5 losing on a Scottie Thompson triple at the buzzer.
Still, Meralco had dethroned the dynastic San Miguel Beer in the playoffs.
And the Bolts will be looking to do more with the acquisition of talented forward Mac Belo and rookie Alvin Pasaol.
“It’s very obvious we’ve upgraded our talent, but we know we’re also up against teams who also upgraded theirs,” Black said. “We’ll just take care of what we can take care of—and that’s our team.”