Bubble fits PBA

THE GAME OF MY LIFE - Bill Velasco (The Philippine Star) - October 3, 2020 - 12:00am

Now that the PBA has fit itself into its bubble in Clark in Pampanga, the teams will have a relatively easier time adjusting to the balance of the Philippine Cup. Unlike the NBA, there are a few reasons why this quarantine scenario fits the league more than it did the NBA, which courageously set an example of how things can be done.

First of all, let us commend the PBA and its players for a unified stance in the face of the pandemic. As a league, the NBA managed its load by trimming off eight teams that were not within six games of a playoff berth at the time play was suspended due to the coronavirus. Thus, the Chicago Bulls, Atlanta Hawks, Golden State Warriors, New York Knicks, Minnesota Timberwolves, Charlotte Hornets, Cleveland Cavaliers and Detroit Pistons did not play in the bubble, but were allowed to train. They dispensed with the formality of finishing out the games.  Individual players from qualified teams were also allowed to opt out due to concerns for their health. But those players lost part of their pay. All the PBA teams are playing.

For the PBA, injured players like six-time MVP June Mar Fajardo, retired players like Sonny Thoss, PJ Simon and Kelly Williams, and a few who opted out will not be present when games resume next week. But bear in mind that PBA teams have 15 players in their rosters, so this is a chance for lower-rung players to get attention from their coaches and spectators. For some observers, this puts an asterisk on the season, but what else can be done?

What will make this bubble easier? First of all, the PBA has learned what it can from the formidable example of the NBA. Secondly, PBA players are used to playing in only a handful of arenas. Being in just one venue will allow for better shooting as the season progresses. Third, players will be cloistered together, will constantly travel to and from games and practices together, and will likely eat all their meals together, which will improve their interpersonal relationships and teamwork. Better games will be ahead.

There was some concern about high fives, fist bumps and chest bumps between players during games transmitting the virus. This writer doesn’t think it will make much difference. Everyone will be tested, anyway. Players already drink from personal water bottles. And once inside the venue, everyone’s already breathing the same air. Coliseums aren’t like airliners, which heat and replace half of their internal air every so often during flights. The league has already put protocols in place. It’s up to the teams to avoid introducing unnecessary risks of infection.

The goal is not to create a duplicate of how the NBA did things. Although the American league created a template and shares its best practices, the challenge – as always – is for the PBA to determine what makes it uniquely Filipino. After all, there is no precedent for these unusual circumstances. What we, as fans, can do is support the league and give our positive feedback and ideas. They choose to work in isolation to show their audience that we must keep moving forward regardless of circumstance, and bravely face this new world we find ourselves in.

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