A typical season of the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) since 2011 is composed of three conference tournaments. These conferences are played by all active teams of the league, with the no-import player rule imposed during the first tournament in the season, the Philippine Cup. This has gone on unchanged until last year, when the COVID pandemic suspended play on the Philippine Cup mere days after the opening ceremonies for the 2020 season. When the IATF finally allowed the PBA to resume on October, they only had enough time left that year for a shortened Philippine Cup conference. This 2021, the league plans to do more.
The Manila Bulletin has it that the PBA is planning for a, if not full, then at least a bigger 46th season this 2021 than was had in COVID-ridden 2020. Their best-case scenario is to hold two out of three conferences, beginning in April 11, with teams playing in a semi-bubble environment for 10 months. This was detailed in a virtual press conference this past Tuesday, March 9, by PBA chairman Ricky Vargas, who envisions the no-imports Philippine Cup being followed by the import-allowed Governor’s Cup, which will be longer than its usual playing period.
In a semi-bubble playing environment, the PBA teams and its players will have restricted movement between their accommodations, and venues for practice and games, which will be held within Metro Manila. Of course, all of this must still be given approval by the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF). The best-case scenario according to Vargas will be four of the 10 allotted months being given to the Philippine Cup while six are for the Governor’s Cup. This conference of course will allow foreign players as imports, as long as they are no taller than 6-foot-five in height.
PBA’s 45th season in 2020 ultimately consisted only of the Philippine Cup, played at the Clark Freeport Zone in Pampanga under a strict bubble environment. Ricky Vargas is optimistic that the 2021 season will at least have more games for league fans to watch (not live, however). “It is our hope that we would be able to bring 10 months of basketball in the Philippines starting April 11,” he says.
Image courtesy of Advocates Philippines