By Michael Angelo S. Murillo
WITH THE coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) continuing to be an ongoing and concerning threat, basketball-loving Filipinos would have to wait some time before they get their steady dose of hoop action.
As part of precautionary measures to mitigate the rapid spread of the highly contagious respiratory disease, which has affected more than a hundred countries to date, basketball leagues all over the world deemed it fit to shut down for now.
But while it is still uncertain when basketball would return, expressions of hope have been given by stakeholders, who also vowed to bring back action once the situation improves.
The National Basketball Association in a letter to its fans at the weekend said that putting a stop to its season was a tough decision to make but something that had to be done “to safeguard the health and well-being of fans, players, everyone connected to our game and the general public.”
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver in the letter said that the league hiatus will last at least for 30 days and that “we intend to resume the season, if and when it becomes safe for all concerned.”
The NBA decided to suspend its season after COVID-19 hit the league close, with some members of the Utah Jazz team contracting the disease last week.
The league initially contemplated holding the games behind closed doors but eventually reconsidered it and decided to shut down altogether just as COVID-19 cases grow in the United States.
Filipinos are a captive audience of the NBA, with the Philippines one of the more vibrant markets for it outside of North America.
While this season local NBA fans saw themselves sans a steady source of games on TV, still it did not stop them from tuning in on other platforms.
PBA AND MPBL
Local leagues, too, have stopped action but vowed to return at the soonest time possible.
The Philippine Basketball Association decided to suspend the league, effective March 11, until further notice.
It was in line with the guidelines set by the government, particularly that discouraging the holding of mass gatherings, as the state declared a public health emergency over COVID-19.
The league is ceasing action at the very least until mid-April, putting games in the Philippine Cup on the back burner along with those in the PBA D-League and the inaugural 3×3 tournament.
In a press conference last week, PBA Commissioner Willie Marcial shared that COVID-19 has disrupted the league significantly in many forms.
But he reiterated that the current situation goes beyond basketball and the PBA as a business, and that they are adjusting their affairs, including preparing for the season extending all the way to the first quarter of next year.
The fledgling community basketball league Maharlika Pilipinas Basketball League, meanwhile, has also put a stop to action in its Lakan Cup, which is now in the divisional finals.
“Just like other sports organizations and events, the league’s primary concern is the health and safety of the public,” said MPBL Commissioner Kenneth Duremdes.
“We will be closely monitoring the national situation involving COVID-19 until it is contained,” he added.
The MPBL played its divisional finals behind closed doors before deciding to take an indefinite hiatus.
Both the best-of-three North (San Juan versus Makati) and South (Davao Occidental against Basilan) are knotted at one game apiece and the league said it would resume action once possible, taking a responsible and cautious approach to it when it comes.
The ASEAN Basketball League (ABL) moved for a suspension of conduct as well.
“The ABL, with the unanimous support of all its member teams, sees no other recourse but to halt competitions in its ongoing 10th season,” said the league in a statement late last week.
The ABL reiterated that it was a decision which stemmed from a thorough evaluation, hearing every stakeholder’s voice and concerns.
ABL Chief Operating Officer Jericho Ilagan said that they are using this unprecedented situation to learn and prepare for future events like it and for the league to be better.