Things are starting to become a little bit more exciting in the National Basketball Association as all 22 teams have started scrimmaging already in preparation for league play that was cut short in March due to the Covid19 pandemic.
There are a few notable absentees in the Orlando Wide World of Sports campuses such as Avery Bradley of the Los Angeles Lakers (declined to return to the bubble), Russell Westbrook (temporary out due to COVID-19), Trevor Ariza of the Portland Trailblazers (who, like Bradley, declined to return to the bubble), and almost half of the Brooklyn Nets roster due to injuries and infections.
The absence of the said players, however, doesn’t mean that Orlando lacks the star power to finish the season strong. Lebron James and Anthony Davis of the Lakers are very eager to take to the court and claim the crown this year but would have to joust against 2 other title favorites in the form of the Los Angeles Clippers, led by All-Stars Paul George and Kawhi Leonard, and the Milwaukee Bucks led by the Greek Freak, Giannis Antetokounmpo.
Amidst the rising cases in Florida where Disney hosts the remainder of the 2019-2020 NBA season, it seems Commissioner Adam Silver has everything buttoned down to a “T” in terms of security, health protocols, disciplinary measures and training to ball game phases that will slowly get the players in shape and in tune in time for the playoffs. I’m personally looking forward to a top 4 finish that would include the Milwaukee Bucks, Los Angeles Lakers, Los Angeles Clippers and the Philadelphia 76ers.
I mentioned the latter because of their intriguing plan to move Ben Simmons to a full-time power forward starter in lieu of Al Horford who will start coming off the bench. Personally, I think a frontcourt of Joel Embiid at Center, Simmons at the four, and Tobias Harris at the shooting forward spot will create matchup problems for their opponents come the playoffs.
Excited to wait for tip-off on July 31!
Is the PBA Season in Jeopardy?
Moving to the local front, is our very own Philippine Basketball Association in danger of canceling the 2020 season altogether? Metro Manila has maintained a General Community Quarantine (GCQ) status amidst the rise of the COVID-19 virus cases. Although plans to start getting teams do player conditioning is already drafted, getting to real live gameplay is still far fetched, not until the quarantine level moves to a softer modified GCQ at least.
Unlike the NBA, we may not have the luxury of having a big enough sports campus to accommodate all 12 PBA teams in a bubble-like environment. The cost to maintain that set up would simply be too high for teams to shoulder. The rise in operational cost will also mean lower margins due to the loss of gate receipts since games would be played without the fans. The source of revenue for the PBA would be limited to sponsorship deals and television.
A tough time indeed for sports in general.
If we try to be creative thinkers, however, it seems the old ULTRA could probably be a good bubble option for the PBA. House the teams in hotels in Ortigas on discounted rates. Note that with the tourism crunch, hotels in the area would most certainly entertain a bargain deal to house the PBA Teams. The ULTRA can be the game venue while players can be housed in hotels nearby. If teams need to practice, the Ortigas area is home to good quality basketball facilities like the Ynares Center along Shaw Boulevard, the Upper Deck Gym in Julia Vargas Avenue (2 practice courts there), the CCF Center along with Tiendesitas and of course the Meralco Gym in Ortigas Avenue. It seems Pasig can be a one-stop shop hub for the PBA to continue its operations.
All is not lost for this season and I am hoping that restrictions ease off by the August time frame so we can get to see quality basketball in our country again. Getting teams in the hardcourt would be a symbol of hope, that we are in control and poised to embrace our new normal.
(The writer is a senior leader in the Business Process Outsourcing industry managing Philippine countryside operations)