Waiting for GCQ

SPORTING CHANCE - Joaquin M. Henson (The Philippine Star) - April 14, 2021 - 12:00am

It’s a waiting game for PBA teams gearing up for the coming 46th season and while Metro Manila remains under MECQ, there can still be no practices whatsoever, even individual workouts in limited batches that were started last February then cancelled three weeks ago when the government ordered a dropdown to ECQ because of an alarming rise of COVID-19 cases.

With conditions in a state of flux, the PBA isn’t able to pinpoint when the new season will be started. It’s not just the Philippine Cup that’s affected but also the 3x3 league which is drawing a lot of interest in social media with 16 teams likely to participate and Fil-Ams Jason Brickman, Jeremiah Gray and Brandon Ganuelas-Rosser joining the fray. The PBA plans to hold two 5x5 conferences and at least three 3x3 tournaments this year. PBA commissioner Willie Marcial said yesterday a Board of Governors meeting will be called next week to evaluate the situation.

PBA deputy commissioner Eric Castro said at the moment, teams are left with no choice but to conduct zoom workouts. He confirmed that under the IATF Joint Administrative Order guidelines, individual training may be conducted only in GCQ. The stay-at-home rule is imposed in ECQ and MECQ. Once the situation eases and MGCQ is announced, 5x5 scrimmages may be started. The rules apply only to pro sports and amateur leagues that are given exceptions like the MPBL. Collegiate leagues are not covered since they are under CHED (Commission on Higher Education) which issues guidelines with the concurrence of DOH (Department of Health).

Marcial recently said before actual games can commence, there must be at least two or three weeks of practice preceding the resumption to allow players to get ready and avoid the incidence of injuries. Under the circumstances, it doesn’t look like the season can begin even in May since Metro Manila is still in MECQ. From MECQ, it will take a major improvement in the COVID-19 situation to progress to GCQ where individual workouts may begin. Then, it will be another wait for MGCQ to resume 5x5 scrimmages. Castro said the IATF may allow actual games in MGCQ under certain conditions. Last year, the IATF gave its go-signal for the PBA to restart the Philippine Cup under strict bubble conditions in MGCQ in Clark.

If the Clark bubble took about two months to finish at a cost of P65 to 70 million, it could mean double the amount in case the PBA holds a bubble for the coming first conference which will take four months to complete. The second conference will feature a double-round elimination and the timetable is six months to finish. But it’s not just the budget that’s daunting to conduct one or two bubbles. It’s the stress that 350 people will endure over four months in one conference and six more in another conference.

It’s tough to accept that the PBA is at a standstill when basketball leagues in China, Chinese-Taipei, South Korea and Japan are moving forward. The PBA is simply following government guidelines which prioritize the safety of everyone.

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