Marcial says PBA ready for potential Omicron strike as target date for Governors’ Cup set
The Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) has finally put a target opening date for its first import conference in the pandemic era.
TNT, the only team that can win two titles this season, has set a target of its own.
The PBA hopes to thaw the ice on the Governors’ Cup on Dec. 8 at Ynares Sports Arena in Pasig City, with league officials ready for any potential surge that a new variant of the coronavirus may cause.
“It’s been a tough situation for all of us. We’re all relying on things we have no control over,” said league chief Willie Marcial.
“What’s important now, just like the last time, is that we’re able to start, even through little steps. We may not have fans for the time being but at least we’re having imports,” he added.
The season-ending tournament was being held up by the arrival of the last two imports, but both are expected to be accounted for by Wednesday.
Meralco team manager Paolo Trillo said Panamanian standout Tony Bishop Jr., the Bolts’ last-minute replacement for Shabazz Muhammad, was processing documentary paperwork as of press time.
“He’ll be at the [Philippine] embassy in a few hours. He’ll leave for Manila as soon as he gets his visa,” the Bolts official told the Inquirer on Monday over the phone.
“If all goes according to plan, he’ll arrive Wednesday morning,” he added.
With Barangay Ginebra’s Justin Brownlee expected to plane in on Tuesday, the cast of reinforcements will be complete, thus allowing the league to set a working opening date for the Governors’ Cup.
With news of the discovery of the new Omicron variant of the coronavirus leaving a pandemic-weary population nervous of another surge, Marcial said the league already has fail-safe protocols in place just in case a change of restriction occurs mid-tournament.
“We don’t know for sure how [health officials] will deal with us once that new variant enters the country. But if they require us to do a bubble or a semi-bubble, we’re ready for it,” said Marcial.
The Tropang Giga should be among the favorites when the tournament gets going—without fans for the early stages as the Inquirer reported earlier.
But TNT coach Chot Reyes, who steered the team to the Philippine Cup crown earlier this season, believes the conference’s defending champions will be wearing the ones wearing the bullseye.
“In import conferences, obviously, one’s import is crucial. And right now, the benchmark is Justin [Brownlee],” he told the Inquirer on Monday.
“This, coupled with the Gin [Kings’] super local lineup makes them early favorites,” Reyes added.
Reyes also feels the same way toward San Miguel and Magnolia, two storied franchises that, he noted, made “significant roster upgrades.”
Meanwhile, the Sista Super Sealers finally found itself at the summit of the three-a-side skirmishes after prevailing over Pioneer Pro Tibay, 20-13, in the Leg 3 championship of the PBA’s side attraction on Sunday night.
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