Two-conference format on the table as PBA board plans shortened season

April 6 ------ THE PBA board is scheduled to hold an online meeting to discuss the league's options in a season that it was forced to suspend owing to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. PBA commissioner Willie Marcial said chairman Ricky Vargas called the meeting set either Monday or Tuesday, the board's first since it suspended games and practices following the government’s decision to put Luzon under an enhanced community quarantine (ECQ).

The ECQ, which explicitly banned the holding of mass gatherings like sports events, will end on April 12, but government officials are already hinting at the possibility of an extension. Marcial said he doesn’t see the league resuming anytime soon, raising the possibility of reducing the season into two conference and canceling the PBA D-League Aspirants Cup altogether. “The board will assess the situation and will make a thorough study kung ano ang magandang gawin,” Marcial said in the PBA website.

Marcial said the league could resume in June at the earliest as he needs to give the teams enough time to prepare for the Philippine Cup. “Ang nakikita kong pinaka-maagang balik ng PBA ay June. Kasi even if the country is able to flatten the COVID-19 curve in April or May, I have to give our teams a month of practices before we resume play,” said Marcial. “Hindi natin alam kung gaano katagal tatagal ito. Sana matapos na, at mawala na ang health threat. Pero hindi pa rin tayo makakabalik agad-agad,” Marcial said.

The 2020 season was already slated to finish early 2021 until the Covid-19 threat, and a two-conference format would allow the league to end its 45th season on that same time frame. The PBA D-League Aspirants Cup is also facing cancellation since any resumption will likely clash with the holding of the UAAP, NCAA, and other major collegiate leagues. Eligibility rules for next year’s PBA draft also needs to be revised if the D-League Aspirants’ Cup is cancelled. Aspiring rookies need to log a required number of games in the developmental league before becoming eligible for the draft.