As TNT makes debut, PBA rolls out disinfected red carpet for fans | Inquirer Sports
The cheers return

As TNT makes debut, PBA rolls out disinfected red carpet for fans

By: - Reporter / @MusongINQ
/ 05:03 AM December 15, 2021
TNT and Magnolia make their Governors’ Cup debut against separate foes in front of comebacking fans. —PBA IMAGES.

TNT and Magnolia make their Governors’ Cup debut against separate foes in front of comebacking fans. —PBA IMAGES

A TNT side shooting to sweep the PBA season makes its Governors’ Cup debut on Wednesday, going into battle even with coach Chot Reyes knowing that his Tropang Giga are “not ready” and will be playing with the proverbial bull’s eye behind their backs.

The day’s doubleheader will mark a league milestone in the pandemic era: Fans will finally be allowed back to the venues at half capacity.


The champion of the last Philippine Cup after taking down three conglomerate rivals in succession, the Tropang Giga slug it out with sister squad NLEX in the 6 p.m. contest at Smart Araneta Coliseum in Cubao, and Reyes is hoping that the chemistry that import McKenzie Moore has developed with the locals will be enough to get them through early in the eliminations.

“I think in terms of chemistry, our import is getting along well with the others,” Reyes told the Inquirer over the phone. “But we are far from ready.


“Other teams are already playing [in the tournament] and we couldn’t even play scrimmages because Mac had a minor injury,” he went on. “He has only been able to participate in full contact practices last week, so that affects the game-shape of the whole team.”

At 3 p.m., Magnolia and Terrafirma officially welcome spectators back to the league when they clash in Wednesday’s opener.

The Hotshots should be a familiar sight for fans. As Alex Cabagnot, the former San Miguel Beer gunner, put it: “You know, the last game played was at Araneta [Coliseum], a San Miguel-Magnolia game. After that, everything [went haywire].”

Cabagnot, who is at the tailend of a sterling career, will be suiting up against Magnolia anew, this time with the Dyip.

“If this is the last two years [of my career], I want it with fans instead of playing in a bubble,” he added.

Best fans

Phoenix import Paul Harris, who has had stints with TNT, also expressed excitement about the return of fans.

“We need them. I can’t wait,” he said. “Because there’s no fans like the PBA fans. I don’t care, man. There’s no fans like them.”


Harris and the Fuel Masters see action on Thursday against Rain or Shine, also at the Big Dome.

The league has guaranteed maximum disinfection of the playing venue for the safety of spectators. The PBA commissioner’s office also said fans should take note that Quezon City’s vaccine mandate and health protocols will be in effect, meaning only those who have received their COVID-19 jabs will be allowed entry.

At least one government ID, proof of vaccination and face masks will be required. Fans will also be accommodated on a distanced-seating protocol.

Reyes toned down his team’s form when he came out of retirement before the Philippine Cup, before getting his crew in the groove and they mowed everyone in sight on the way to topping the elimination round.

Moore is the team’s first choice for an import, having suited up for the franchise in a stint in the East Asia Super League a couple of months back. In a way, that has helped him jell with the locals.

And Moore will have a lot of help in trying to lead this team to a second straight title, with Mikey Williams coming off a sterling performance that made him the first rookie winner of the Best Player of the Conference award.

Different tone

It was a conference to remember for the Tropang Giga, who took down powerhouses Barangay Ginebra and then San Miguel Beer in the quarterfinals and Final Four, respectively, before topping Magnolia in the best-of-seven title series, 4-1.

All told, the Tropang Giga lost just a total of five games in the PH Cup, with only one coming in the eliminations. They also chopped down the mighty Beermen in seven games in the semifinals.

Magnolia coach Chito Victolero is speaking with a different tone, saying that they “are excited” to finally be playing again and hope to apply the lessons that they learned in that botched title attempt.

“We’ve learned a lot of lessons in that loss [to TNT] and we hope to use all of that [here],” Victolero said on Monday as he parades one of the most formidable local cores in the league, with a team built around Paul Lee, Calvin Abueva and Ian Sangalang. Mike Harris, the former Best Import with Alaska, will play for Magnolia this time.

“The locals are doing very well in our preparations,” he said. “We spent two full weeks without practice to be with our families after the Philippine Cup and that helped them a lot. They can’t wait to get back into action.”

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