January 14 ------ Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) commissioner Willie Marcial has become a fan of the 6 o’clock news, and not the sports portions of it. “I’m always waiting to see the numbers [of COVID-19] positive cases,” the PBA chief told the Inquirer over the phone on Wednesday, saying the decline of those testing positive for the coronavirus around the country will more or less dictate when the Governors’ Cup can restart. “Unless we see a significant dip, we basically cannot do anything about it.” The conference ground to a halt last Jan. 3 when the government implemented alert level 3 on the metro, pushing the PBA back to early pandemic times.
Realistically, Marcial now sees a restart not coming before the first week of February as he, like the rest of the country, has been left to just wait and see where the latest surge in cases goes. “February will be crucial,” Marcial said. “We really hope that the numbers continue to decline for us to even think about restarting at that time.”
The suspension of the tournament also means that teams are having additional costs without getting anything in return, as their respective imports continue to get paid. Ending the conference as scheduled, obviously won’t happen at this time. “That’s why I am very thankful to the [team] owners,” Marcial said. “They understand the situation. I have not heard anything from them regarding the latest suspension of the conference.” It’s just a pity that the surge came when it did, Marcial said, as the league was just getting back up on its feet by having live crowds watch the game. There were close to 5,000 fans that saw the Christmas Day doubleheader at Smart Araneta Coliseum and the PBA had just penciled its return to Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City for Jan. 15 and 16 when the rash of infections were recorded.
Practices have also been called off, and when Marcial feels that the time is ideal, he would also need to give each team at least five days of practice before his office releases the new schedule of games. “The safety of everyone comes first,” Marcial said. “I’m saying that February will be crucial because it’s only then when we can plot the restart—and that is if we see the numbers of the infected go down.” “We can’t plan for the restart now, what with all that’s happening,” he went on. “Our priority is to make sure that everyone is safe when we get back to playing.”