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Narvasa says change is coming

PBA commissioner Chito Narvasa. SPORTS5

MANILA, Philippines - PBA commissioner Chito Narvasa said yesterday he’s determined to make every game in every season an exciting showcase of high-level basketball as the former collegiate and pro coach vowed to introduce changes in areas which could stand improvement with officiating a major priority.

“It’s all about working together,” said Narvasa. “I don’t do things on my own. In officiating, for instance, I always consult with the coaches before introducing any change in approach or philosophy or rules. We’re always looking for ways to improve for the fans to enjoy the game. It’s a collective effort. The PBA belongs to the fans. I work with the teams in the PBA, their owners, the Board, the coaches and the players. My decision-making is not unilateral.”

Reacting to the high incidence of fouls and free throws in the ongoing Governors Cup, Narvasa said it’s a period of adjustment. “The first order of the day is to determine how to grade our referees so the process of evaluation is critical,” he said. “We’re doing a baseline assessment. At the moment, we’re following the rules to the letter and taking away, as much as possible, discretion by the referees. We can’t do let-go situations. Our approach is still evolving. At the end of the Governors Cup, we’ll evaluate how we did and make the necessary adjustments for the next season.”

Narvasa said the application of rules is premised on an equal interpretation in the interest of fairness. “Rules are rules,” he said. “Coaches and players must adjust to how the rules are being interpreted. It’s fair for all. Rules aren’t meant to put a team at an advantage or disadvantage.”

Narvasa said there will be no changes in officiating standards while the Governors Cup is in progress. But he plans to curb the natural tendency of coaches to call uncharged timeouts when referees are consulting the video monitor particularly in the last two minutes of a game. “Maybe, in the semifinals of the Governors Cup, we’ll be introducing a guideline that during a lull in the game when referees are consulting the video monitor, players won’t be allowed to approach their bench,” he said. “Some coaches take advantage of the situation to give instructions without being charged a timeout. We’ll study how to approach this issue.”

Narvasa said the strict enforcement of calling fouls on contact is a reaction to the extremely physical nature of the game. “We don’t want the game to deteriorate into a wrestling match, that’s not basketball,” he said. “So we went back to the basics. Now, we’re enforcing the rules on allowable contact strictly. At the same time, we’re evaluating the ability of our referees. We’re also reviewing the merit of the rules. It’s a continuing process where we study how we can improve, what are the flaws in the system, what works and what doesn’t.”

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Narvasa said reaching out to the fans via social media is a vital tool where the PBA is able to interact with the public. “Communication is a priority,” he said. “We’re exploring how to connect more closely with the fans so we know what they’re thinking and they know what we’re thinking. It’s a two-way street. If there’s traffic in the streets, we’ll do our job to decongest it. The PBA is a different league from the UAAP or the NCAA. Obviously, the collegiate leagues have a natural fan base because of the school system. In the PBA, there is no natural fan base. Teams have to work to establish their fan base. My job is to be able to assist the teams in this respect.”

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