Overseas, provincial games to expand PBA reach

Joaquin M. Henson - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines - PBA chairman Patrick Gregorio yesterday confirmed plans to hold overseas games this season and said the concept of Asian integration is proposed to be the theme in the Governors Cup where a team may opt to employ an Asian reinforcement aside from bringing in a “regular” import.

“There are plans to play official games in Dubai and Korea,” said Gregorio. “Regarding our talks with the KBL (Korean Basketball League), we’re focused on ‘lending’ players for our third conference. No discussions yet on a home and away series. It’s really just focusing on Asian reinforcements playing in the PBA. If we travel, we travel as the PBA.”

Gregorio said the proposal to open up the third conference to Asian reinforcements is still under discussion and if it is approved by the PBA Board of Governors, recruitment will be optional. The plan is to set a height limit of 6-4 for Asian reinforcements while the top eight finishers based on records in the previous two conferences will be allowed to bring in a “regular” import with a ceiling of 6-5 and the last four placers with no restriction. Possible Asian imports are Korea’s 6-2 sharpshooter Cho Sung Min and Iran’s 5-11 point guard Mehdi Kamrani and 6-3 shooting guard Behnam Yakhchali.

Two games are on tap for the Commissioner’s Cup in Dubai on March 13 and 14 next year. “There is an agreement in principle to hold two official games in Dubai,” said PBA media bureau chief Willie Marcial. “We’re just waiting for the signatures on the contract. We’re excited to go back to Dubai and reconnect with our Filipino OFWs.”

The tentative schedule is San Mig Coffee will play Rain Or Shine on March 13 and the Elasto Painters go back-to-back against Barangay Ginebra on March 14. Two years ago, Rain Or Shine also played two games in a row in Dubai, beating Barako Bull, 99-95, and losing to Barangay Ginebra, 89-88. That was the last staging of official PBA games abroad.

Marcial said aside from the March event, the PBA received an invitation to participate in an international tournament in late January, also in Dubai. “This is the same tournament where Gilas has played,” said Marcial. “The invitation is for anywhere between one to four PBA teams. It will be during the break between the first and second conferences. Nothing is final yet. Our PBA teams have been playing games in Saudi Arabia, Qatar and other destinations through the years but as far as official bearing games are concerned, we’ve only played in Dubai, Guam, Singapore, Indonesia and Hong Kong.”

Marcial said talks are ongoing with the KBL on holding a PBA official game, possibly in Seoul. “It’s in the works,” he said. “The KBL likes the idea so now comes the hard part of finding the ideal venue, promoter and schedule. We’re looking at a third conference game.”

While negotiations are proceeding for overseas outings, the PBA has locked in provincial hosts for the coming Philippine Cup. Set to stage games are Lucena, Tubod, Davao City, Cagayan de Oro, Binan twice and Dipolog. For Metro Manila, five venues are in the schedule – Smart Araneta Coliseum for 23 games, Cuneta Astrodome and Ynares Center in Antipolo two each and the Mall of Asia Arena and the Philippine Arena one each. Marcial said the Mall of Asia Arena will hold more games after the end of the eliminations on Dec. 9.

The season opener on Oct. 19 will be held at the 55,000-seat Philippine Arena which Marcial described as world-class. “We’ve done several oculars and we’re all impressed by the high standards of the Philippine Arena from the Gared basketball goals to the maple hardcourt,” he said. “I think this opens the door for more games to be played at the Philippine Arena. I’m sure our experience in the opening will be positive. Maybe, some games in the semifinals or finals could be held there. If both sides are happy with working together, we see no reason why we can’t do more games at the Philippine Arena.”

Marcial said the PBA had to turn down requests from other provincial sites to host games in the Philippine Cup because of schedule constraints. “We’re not able to accommodate everyone but we tried our best,” he said. “We’ll do more provincial games in the next two conferences. Cebu, Legazpi, General Santos City, Polomolok and Batangas are on our list. Puerto Princesa will probably host our All-Star Week.”

 The first provincial game this season will pit Barangay Ginebra against Kia in Lucena on Oct. 25. Then it will be N-Lex against San Miguel Beer in Tubod on Nov. 8, Rain Or Shine against Meralco in Davao City on Nov. 15, Alaska against Globalport in Cagayan de Oro on Nov. 22, a doubleheader featuring Talk ‘N’ Text against Barako Bull and Meralco against San Mig Coffee in Binan on Nov. 23, Blackwater against Talk ‘N’ Text in Binan on Nov. 29 and San Mig Coffee against Barako Bull in Dipolog on Dec. 6.

During the pre-season, the PBA held games in provincial locations, visiting Angeles City, Binan, Panabo, Puerto Princesa and Legazpi.

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