PBA to wait for COVID-19 cases to decline before starting new season

The PBA can only start its 46th season once COVID-19 cases in the country go down, PBA commissioner Willie Marcial said Thursday.

"Even with a vaccine, if there is no decline in cases, there will be no PBA." said Marcial in Filipino in a virtual press conference on Thursday. "The cases have to go down first."

In the meantime, the league will try to get the teams to begin scrimmages, possibly in Batangas City, once the modified enhanced community quarantine is lifted in NCR-Plus. On Wednesday night, President Duterte announced an extension of MECQ until May 14.

Marcial and Ginebra team governor Alfrancis Chua will head to Batangas City this weekend to inspect three practice facilities there. "In Batangas, they have three wooden courts," Chua said. "The 12 teams, they can rotate use of the three courts. For travel, we can use SLEX. Batangas is actually near.

According to Marcial, scrimmages can start once the league gets approval from the IATF, secures a joint administrative order (JAO), and gets the go-signal from the local government unit.

The two met with Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea and Sen. Bong Go in Malacañang on Tuesday to discuss the league's various proposals for jumpstarting the two-conference season.

Among the options on the table are another iteration of a 'bubble' this time in Ilocos Norte, and a closed circuit format tournament. Chua said that games under the closed circuit format could be held in Batangas, Antipolo or Pampanga.

Also discussed were the league's effort to procure vaccines for members of the PBA family, which includes players, coaches, personnel, and possibly members of the PBA Press Corps.

Discussions will be made with vaccine czar Sec. Carlito Galvez to help the league acquire vaccines, per a mandate of President Duterte to help the private sector secure the COVID-19 shots.

"[Go] said, to start and to help the whole PBA family, the government will sell vaccines to the PBA. They will give a 'special slot' in order to vaccinate players and their families. Even coaches, managers, everybody. That will be our chance," said Chua.

If the PBA gets approval from government quickly, it will be targeting a June tip-off that can accommodate two conferences until December. The plan is to hold just a five-to-seven-day break between the All-Filipino and import-flavored conference, with the teams that were eliminated first to open the second conference.

Marcial also mentioned that the originally proposed double-round robin format in the second conference will be cut to just one.