PBA: Let the games begin—again
Time to lace up those sneakers again, for the PBA Governors Cup is swinging back into action in less than two weeks and will finish with imports playing.
With the more lenient alert level 2 health protocol to be imposed on the Metro starting Feb. 1, teams can scrimmage for the first time in close to a month and elimination round action for the season-closing conference restarts 10 days later—minus the fans for the meantime.
PBA commissioner Willie Marcial, who has been tirelessly working to get the conference going again ever since it was shut down on Jan. 3, gave that assurance on Friday that the games will happen again.
“The plan now is by Feb. 1, we’re resuming practices,” Marcial told the Inquirer over the phone. “By Feb. 11 (Friday), we can proceed with the games. We won’t be entertaining fans for now, but we’ll see after a week.”
Without mentioning it, the games will probably be played at Ynares Sports Arena in Pasig City for the meantime, as Marcial and his staff are set to open talks with Smart Araneta Coliseum so that fans can start watching live again.
The Pasig venue is a small one and that is where the PBA played its entire Philippine Cup this season without incident.
Gathering and fans
Before the latest shuttering, the league was also set to play at Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City last Jan. 15 and 16.
The last time a game was played was on Dec. 26 before the conference stopped for a holiday break.
On Jan. 3, the Governors’ Cup ground to a halt after cases of the coronavirus in the National Capital Region soared—and to record proportions in the next couple of weeks—that forced the hand of the government to impose alert level 3 that doesn’t allow gatherings and indoor sports.
“We will come up with an announcement to all the teams that they can start full scrimmages by Feb. 1,” Marcial said.
Marcial and the league faced a lot of challenges during the lull, as teams were forced to shell out extra cash with imports remaining in the country and not playing.
He expressed appreciation to the team owners for understanding this, although he admitted that there came a time that the Office of the Commissioner considered sending the reinforcements home and finishing the conference all-Filipino to save on costs had alert level 3 dragged on.
“Again, I wish to thank the owners and their representatives to the PBA board,” Marcial said.
A schedule is set to be released on or before Feb. 9, as the tournament goes back to its old practice of testing each and every member of each team to know if everyone would be fit to play before Marcial’s office pencils a new schedule.
Magnolia currently leads the elimination round with three straight wins, with Meralco hot on its heels with two straight of its own.
Import blending in
Blackwater continues to be winless—it actually hasn’t won a game since the 2020 Philippine Cup—although the team is expressing confidence that the drought would end after integrating new import Shawn Glover.
“Our mentality is we are 0-0,” Blackwater coach Ariel Vanguardia told the Inquirer on Sunday. “We’ve [also] been doing workouts for two weeks, and I’ve been rotating Shawn (with the groups) so he can get acquainted with all his teammates.”
Glover was cleared by the league last week, allowing him to backstop a Blackwater side looking to tab its first victory in the season-ending Governors’ Cup.
A bona fide scorer with a Danish league title and a Most Valuable Player award to show for it, Glover replaces Jaylen Bond, who wasn’t exactly productive by import standards. The latter was only able to put up 12 points and 12.6 rebounds across five games for the embattled squad.
Blackwater has lost its last 24 games, a league mark in futility the franchise is obviously not proud of.
And Glover—whether he likes it or not—is going to tackle the pressure of ending that.