WAITING FOR a breakthrough that would allow it to squeeze in some activities amid the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, the Philippine Basketball Association remains optimistic despite the general community quarantine (GCQ) setting in Metro Manila being extended till the end of the month.

Citing the continued increase in confirmed COVID-19 cases in the metro, President Rodrigo R. Duterte, as recommended by the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID), deemed it necessary to maintain GCQ in the National Capital Region to try to stem the spread of the highly contagious disease.

The decision meant that outside activities would continue to be limited, if not prohibited, including mass gatherings like sporting events.

For the PBA, while it was hoping for further easing of the quarantine situation, the decision did not come as a surprise. It, however, remains optimistic that conditions would soon improve.

“COVID-19 hasn’t been contained, and so I myself was expecting Metro Manila staying under GCQ for the rest of the month. The way I see it, it is in July that less strict quarantine measures will be raised on NCR,” PBA Commissioner Willie Marcial was quoted as saying by the official league website.

“And July would not be late for our teams to have physical activities in the gym, leading hopefully to full practices and season return sooner than later,” he added.

The PBA suspended its Season 45 in March as COVID-19 started to take further root in the country. When NCR was downgraded to GCQ from enhanced community quarantine this month, the league went on and reached out to the IATF, requesting that it be allowed to do some activities, initially team practices, in preparation for a return to action after.

It submitted a letter of request to the IATF along with the list of safety and health protocols it intends to apply for consideration.

As of this writing, the IATF is still evaluating the PBA’s request.

The PBA has set a June 23 meeting with player-representatives of the 12 member teams to discuss with them the league’s plans moving forward.

A separate meeting with team managers and coaches is also being planned.

The league in August will decide with finality if the currently suspended season will continue this year.

Meanwhile, TNT KaTropa assistant coach Tab Baldwin was suspended for three games and fined P75,000 by the league on Tuesday over recent comments he made that were deemed detrimental to the PBA.

In his recent guesting on the Coaches Unfiltered podcast, Mr. Baldwin, also Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas Gilas project director and current Ateneo Blue Eagles coach, voiced out his opinion on several topics, including how the PBA has a “flawed” tournament format and its coaches being “tactically immature.”

Such did not sit well for the league and other stakeholders who took Mr. Baldwin to task for his comments.

The New Zealander-American coach met with officials of the PBA, including Mr. Marcial, via video call on Monday to clear the air before the league handed down its decision the following day.

In another development, the PBA mourned the passing of basketball patron Eduardo “Danding” Cojuangco, Jr., who passed away on Wednesday at the age of 85.

A valued member of the PBA family, under the leadership of Mr. Cojuangco, the San Miguel group had a lot of success in the league, highlighted by a PBA grand slam in 1989 by the Beermen and the emergence of crowd favorite Ginebra, led by league legend Robert Jaworski, in the late ‘80s.

The group had further success when it added the Purefoods franchise in its fold later on.

All three teams are still active and a force to contend with in the PBA.

Also, Mr. Cojuangco was behind the Northern Consolidated Cement (NCC) basketball team which won a title in 1985 as a guest team in the PBA and produced some of the league’s legends like Hector Calma, Samboy Lim and Allan Caidic.

“Thank you for your countless contributions to the PBA and [Philippine] sports! Our prayers and condolences to his family and loved ones. Requiescat in pace,” the PBA wrote on its Facebook page. — Michael Angelo S. Murillo