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Return of the Dragons
THE Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) hopes to duplicate, if not surpass, the success of the recent Commissioner’s Cup by following the same winning formula and introducing new ones in the coming years.
Among these sure-fire formulas being seriously considered are bringing back the Hong Kong-based Bay Area Dragons, who put up a good fight against Barangay Ginebra in the blockbuster best-of-seven finals, and inviting other guest foreign teams from Australia, Korea or Japan.
“We (PBA officials) are always looking for ways to further improve the league and make our games from the elimination to the finals more exciting like before,” said Marcial during the 52nd episode of “Sports on Air” via Zoom last Thursday.
“Basta para sa ikagaganda ng ating mga laro at ikasasaya ng mas madaming mga fans, bukas ang PBA sa mga ganitong pagbabago,” added Marcial, who was appointed as the 10th commissioner of Asia’s first play-for-pay league in 2018.
“We’re really happy na naging successful itong participation ng Bay Area. Sa simula, hindi talaga namin alam kung ano ang mangyayari. Pero dahil naging very successful nga, tignan natin, kahit siguro once every year, magkaroon tayo ng isang guest team. Ang Bay Area, gusto talagang sumali uli sa atin. Even yun Australian Basketball League, kausap ko. Gusto ding maglaro dito, kahit exhibition muna siguro. Maganda yan sa basketball.”
Asked about his plans for next year’s Commissioner’s Cup, Marcial said there are suggestions to invite not just one, but two, guest foreign teams.
“This August or September, siguradong pag-uusapan namin yan sa next planning session ng PBA Board. May nagsasabi, mag-dalawa tayo. Pero gaya nga ng sabi ko, kailangan pag-aralan. Basta naman sa ikabubuti ng liga, gagawin natin,” stressed the 61-year-old basketball executive.
Marcial, who first joined the PBA in 1983, admitted he was also surprised that the Game 7 between the Kings and the Dragons surpassed the previous record high in gate attendance.
“Honestly, hindi namin talaga ini-expect na ma-break natin yun previous record attendance. Una, iba yun panahon nuon at iba yun panahon ngayon, lalo na nagkaroon pa ng pandemic. Ang ipinagdadasal ko lang dito sa Game 7 sa Philippine Arena, na sana umabot ng 49,000-50,000 fans ang manood. Pero nung ibinigay nga sa akin ang datos, nagulat ako na 54, 589. Hindi ko talaga akalain. Pero dahil na din ito sa suporta ng mga fans natin. Parang buong bansa, nagka-isa at sana ganyan din ang mangyari sa darating na FIBA World Cup.”
Marcial also reported that the recent PBA games were also watched by different countries in East Asia, including China.
“To me, nakatulong talaga sila sa marketing awareness ng PBA.Pinanood tayo ng ibang mga bansa, like Korea and Japan. Sa China, millions daw ang nanood sa atin sa online at iba pang mga platforms. Yun ibang bansa, nakita nila kung paano mag-basketball tayong mga Pilipino.”
Marcial also expressed confidence that the coming PBA Governors’ Cup will be just as successful.
“This coming Sunday, magsisimula na uli tayo sa Governors’ Cup. Makaaasa ang mga fans na maganda uli ang mga games. Sigurado akong ng pipipilitin ng ibang mga teams na pantayan ang nagawa ng Ginebra,” added Marcial.
But Marcial said the PBA will also have to revert to its five playdates a week schedule in the Governors’ Cup to :give way to the preparation of Gilas Pilipinas in the 2023 Southeast Asian Games in Cambodia in May and even the FIBA World Cup in August.
Based on the official schedule released by the PBA, the season-ending conference will have another compressed schedule.
The PBA will play games every Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday to ensure that the tournament will finish in time for the SEA Games.
Last year, the league featured the same format in the Philippine Cup as the national team prepared for the third and fourth window of the FIBA World Cup qualifiers.
The PBA will open the Governors’ Cup hostilities with Meralco and Rain or Shine at 4:30 p.m., while Converge will clash with NorthPorth in the second game at 6:45 p.m.
The Justin Brownlee-led Kings will take a much-needed two-week break before returning to action on Feb. 5 against the Elasto Painters at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.