THE 47th season of the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) finally comes off the wraps on Sunday with an explosive doubleheader at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Converge, which took over the storied franchise of Alaska Milk, will make its debut against Rain or Shine in the 4:30 p.m. game kicking off hostilities in the season-opening PBA Philippine Cup.
The second game at 6:30 p.m.will pit an early rematch of last season’s Philippine Cup finalists TNT and Magnolia.
The new season, which comes after the coronavirus-interrupted conferences in the past two years, will also be ushered in by the Leo Awards starting at 2 p.m.
“The PBA is back. Sana tuloy-tuloy na tayo ngayong unti-unti nang nakakabangon ang lahat sa nangyaring pandemic,” said PBA Commissioner Willie Marcial during his special appearance in the 23rd “Sports On Air: last Friday.
“Pero siyempre, tuloy pa din ang pag-iingat kaya hindi tayo magpapabaya. May face-mask pa din dapat,” added Marcial.
One of the highlights of opening day is the announcement of the winners of the Leo Awards before the actual competition.
Four players — Scottie Thompson of Barangay Ginebra, Mikey Williams of TNT, Robert Bolick of NorthPort and Calvin Abueva of Magnolia — will be named as Season 46 Most Valuable Player.
Thompson is the top favorite to win the award and join the elite club headed by six-time winner June Mar Fajardo and four-time victors Ramon Fernandez and Alvin Patrimonio.
Thompson had a brilliant two-conference campaign that saw him win a championship, a Best Player of the Conference and a Finals MVP in the Governors’ Cup.
Williams, on the other hand, is hoping to duplicate the rare Rookie of the Year-MVP feat that Benjie Paras first achieved in 1989.
The other two candidates are Bolick, who is gunning for the top individual award in his first season back from a year-long layoff due to ACL, and Abueva, the Best Player of the Conference winner of the All-Filipino who returned after his 15-month suspension was lifted in October 2020.
Aside from the MVP award, also to be given are the Mythical First Team, Mythical Second Team, All Defensive Team, Most Improved Player, Sportsmanship and Rookie of the Year awards.
The first game of the season will pit Converge, which will miss the services of Abu Tratter and Maverick Ahanmisi, and Rain or Shine, which will play minus Javee Mocon.
Tratter and Ahanmisi are still abroad, while Mocon reportedly refused to sign a new three-year contract offered by the Elasto Painters.
“The team and organization are very much excited. New team, new group, new season,” said Converge coach Jeff Cariaso in an interview posted at the official PBA website.”
“I’m hoping the excitement of the opening will motivate us even more.”
The 6:30 p.m. mainer will pit the Tropang Giga of coach Chot Reyes and Chicken Timplados of coach Chito Victolero as they renew their rivalry.
(Smart Araneta Coliseum)
2 p.m. — Leo Awards
4:30 p.m. — Converge vs. Rain or Shine
6:30 p.m. — Magnolia vs.TNT