BASKETBALL great Ramon Fernandez believes the Philippines has what it takes to regain Asian supremacy in basketball, more so with PBA players reinforced by a naturalized player and Los Angeles Laker Jordan Clarkson.
Now, if they can only be available.
To ensure the availability of the best players for future national teams and avoid constant conflicts, the four-time PBA MVP said the pro league should adjust its season schedule to the tournaments of Fiba where Gilas Pilipinas is set to take part.
“I think the PBA has to adjust its schedule in line with the tournaments of Fiba," said Fernandez, who was also the founding commissioner of the MBA. "It won’t hurt them much, Fiba schedules are known at least two or four years in advance.
“The PBA is a commercial league with the main objective of advertising the company’s products. They can play year long but have breaks if there is a Fiba tournament in a given year,” he added.
Conflicts in schedule are expected to arise beginning next year when Gilas takes part in the Olympic wildcard qualifiers in July, and more so in 2017 when Fiba adopts a home-and-away format for the World Cup qualifiers.
Fernandez believes providing a two-month window for Gilas’ training plus another half a month for its actual participation in a tournament will not do the PBA any harm.
“Two months na preparation ng Gilas, I think okay na 'yun eh. Nakita naman natin sa last two editions, lumaban sila pareho sa finals,” Fernandez said, pointing to the runner-up ginishes of Gilas in the past two Fiba Asia championships.
“If the PBA plays, for example, 120 games a year for a team, schedule sila na mabigyan ng 120 games lahat, tapos pag Fiba season, break sila. Hindi naman siguro kalabisan 'yun,” said the former Toyota star.
To smoothen the relations betwen the PBA and the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP), Fernandez said the national cage body should give all PBA teams voting power and a voice in the deliberations in the board.
To do that, Fernandez said PBA teams should be given seats in the board alongside representatives from other major leagues in the country as well as representation from the Senate and Congress.
Under the present set-up, only the PBA commissioner and chairman are members of the SBP board.
“Give each of them (PBA teams) a voice in the SBP board, I’m sure it can help. Para kahit papano, madidinig rin ang side nila,” he said.
“Kahit bigyan din nila ng seat ang PSC sa board, kasama dalawang solon (senator and congressman) for additional help in possible government funding, tapos 'yung ten major school leagues and then yung 12 man PBA board, maganda na 'yun,” he said.
But more importantly, Fernandez believes realigning the schedule of the PBA will give the country the best chance in major international tournaments.
“Still, ang bottomline dyan is how we prepare our team. Yun ang dapat mabigyan ng diin. Kasi let’s face it: Basketball is our number one pastime, we have the skills and the best way to show the world that we’re the most passionate basketball country is to compete with our hearts and talent sa international scene,” he said.
Fernandez said the PBA also stands to benefit when Gilas does well overseas.
“If we are able to send the best PBA players to these international tourneys, it is also the PBA in the long run that will benefit as the skills and abilities of these players will definitely improve as what we all have seen with many of them who have played in this level of competition,” he said.