WITH the National Capital Region (NCR) reverting to a more relaxed lockdown setup beginning Wednesday, the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) is targeting to have its long-delayed return to activities commence at the earliest by Aug. 25.

Shut down since March because of the coronavirus pandemic, the local professional basketball league was angling to return to some form of activities early this month, which it hoped to get the ball rolling for the eventual resumption of its currently suspended season either late in September or in October.

The league plan to return, however, was torpedoed by the decision of the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) to go back to modified enhanced community quarantine from General Community Quarantine (GCQ) from Aug. 4 to 18 on the recommendation of medical frontliners to give the country’s health system a chance to breathe and recover.

The government, however, on Monday put NCR and nearby provinces to GCQ anew beginning Aug. 19, giving the PBA another opportunity to begin holding team workouts.

While technically much of sports activities in the country are still limited because of restrictions related to the health crisis, the league, along with other professional sports organization, got the nod to return to activities after receiving the Joint Administrative Order (JAO) from pertinent government agencies which serves as the go signal to proceed.

The JAO came from the Games and Amusements Board, Department of Health and the Philippine Sports Commission and contains the implementing guidelines governing the conduct of professional and nonprofessional sports training while the country is under community quarantine brought about by the coronavirus pandemic.

Earlier the PBA submitted to the IATF a set of protocols that it intends to implement and follow to ensure a successful resumption.

Included in the PBA’s return to training protocols are the players undergoing a series of swab testings; players are expected to abide by the “closed circuit” method that has them confining their travel as much as possible to home-to-practice facility and back; and during workouts, to be overseen by a designated health officer, players must observe proper distancing (only four players at a time) and hygiene.

Violations of the closed circuit method and during the workouts carry corresponding penalties.

With a possible return to team workouts next week, teams are already gearing up after months of inactivity.

The NLEX Road Warriors, for one, are looking forward to get it going, but mindful of the need to follow the protocols to ensure their team’s health and safety.

“We have to have the necessary precautions, both at home and within the team,” said NLEX coach Yeng Guiao during his session with the Power and Play radio show on Saturday, referring to the two “bubbles” they are encouraging in their camp.

Under the concept, the Road Warriors are reminded to be cautious of who they interact with at home and training, limiting it if possible to only those who are immediately connected to them.

Mr. Guiao admits that such an approach is not guaranteed to be fully effective, but at least he said doing so gives them a chance to be better prepared to guard against the coronavirus. — Michael Angelo S. Murillo