WHILE they are still awaiting government approval of the Philippine Basketball Association’s  (PBA) request to resume its currently suspended season, the 12 competing teams of the league are already girding for entry into the tournament “bubble” which could happen next week.

As part of their preparations for playing in the bubble which would take place at Clark City in Angeles, Pampanga, teams underwent swab testing this week.

The Magnolia Hotshots, Meralco Bolts, Phoenix Fuel Masters, TNT KaTropa, and Terra Firma Dyid had their tests on Wednesday while the Alaska Aces, Blackwater Bossing, Northport Batang Pier, NLEX Road Warriors, Rain or Shine Elasto Painters, Barangay Ginebra Kings, and San Miguel Beermen had theirs on Thursday.

Following the testing, players and team officials are restricted to their homes for the next five days until their scheduled departure for Clark next week to get going with their scrimmages.

The first batch of teams to leave for the bubble is targeted to do so on Sept. 28, while the second batch departs the next day.

The tournament bubble, now set to begin anywhere between Oct. 9 to 13, however, still depends on the approval of the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) of the league’s request to resume its season.

The PBA has already sent letters of request for its return push, the response of which it is expecting anytime soon.

Entering the bubble, league stakeholders admit that it would be a challenge and much sacrifice is expected from them to make the season restart a success.

“It (bubble) will show how professional we are. We have to do our best and show what we can do out of our comfort zone,” San Miguel coach Leo Austria was quoted as saying by the official PBA website.

He was seconded by Alaska coach Jeff Cariaso, saying, “Guys are professionals. For us to be able to continue and go through this conference, they’re gonna have to really sacrifice.”

The league said it will be doing everything it can to ensure that all bases are covered for the bubble setup to make it comfortable to all concerned.

In return, the PBA just wants to get the full commitment of the players, coaches and staff to follow the set of health and safety protocols.

“If we maintain the ‘bubble’ I think there’s nothing to worry about,” said Dr. Raul Canlas, the league’s medical consultant.

Under the bubble setup, which is similar to that employed in the National Basketball Association, players, coaches, and staff of the teams and the league will be holed up in one location for the duration of the tournament and will be shuttled to and from the hotel and the playing venue.

Games will be played at the Angeles University Foundation while the teams will be staying in the nearby Quest Hotel.

It will be a compressed tournament for the PBA, lasting only two months and will feature two games daily. And the league expects to crown a champion by the second week of December.

The league suspended it Season 45 in March when the coronavirus pandemic started to make its presence felt in the country. — Michael Angelo S. Murillo