By Michael Angelo S. Murillo, Senior Reporter
Philippine Basketball Association action is set to come back beginning next month after the government approved the league’s request to hold a tournament “bubble” and resume its currently suspended season.
The PBA on Thursday said the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) gave a “provisional approval” for the league to proceed with its planned bubble in Clark City in Angeles, Pampanga, as well as 5-on-5 scrimmages in the lead-up to the resumption.
“We’re happy and we’re ready to go,” said PBA chairman Ricky Vargas in the impromptu online press conference announcing the long-awaited development.
Mr. Vargas, who represents the TNT KaTropa, was joined in the press conference by PBA Commissioner Willie Marcial, Bases Conversion and Development Corp. (BCDA) chief and IATF official Vince Dizon and Clark Development Corporation (CDC) president Noel Manankil.
The league suspended it Season 45 in March when the coronavirus pandemic started to make its presence felt in the country.
Now given the nod to resume, the PBA is preparing to send member teams to Clark City to begin their preparations for the restart, targeted to kick off on Oct. 11.
The first batch of teams will leave on Sept. 28 while the second batch departs the next day.
The teams underwent swab testing this week with the Magnolia Hotshots, Meralco Bolts, Phoenix Fuel Masters, TNT KaTropa and Terra Firma Dyip having their tests on Wednesday and the Alaska Aces, Blackwater Bossing, Northport Batang Pier, NLEX Road Warriors, Rain or Shine Elasto Painters, Barangay Ginebra Kings and San Miguel Beermen on Thursday.
Upon entry to the bubble, the teams will once again go through swab testing and wait for the result at Quest Hotel, the official home of the league during the tournament.
Once they get negative results, the teams can then proceed to do 5-on-5 scrimmages at the official training and games venue — Angeles University Foundation.
The PBA thanked Mr. Dizon, who made the presentation at the IATF which was presided by the task force’s co-chairman Secretary Karlo Nograles, in behalf of the pro league.
The BCDA chief and Mr. Manankil said their respective agencies will do their share in making the PBA restart a success, including providing proper coronavirus testing and ensuring the bubble will be held in a safe environment.
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.
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.