GILAS Pilipinas is all but certain to see action in the PBA's 2021 season.
The question now is will it be in the Philippine Cup?
SBP plans to restart Gilas training camp by mid-March, with the Fiba Asia Cup qualifiers pushed back to June. The PBA is looking to open its new season in April.
"Yung konsepto, maliwanag yun. Nag-usap kami ni Comm. Willie (Marcial) on Gilas being able to play in the PBA, whether it's going to be in the conference or we will come up with a pocket tournament," Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) executive director Sonny Barrios told Radyo5's Power and Play with Noli Eala on Saturday.
"Yun ang pinag-aaralan at kung ano yung recommendation namin, yun ang isusulong sa kanya kanyang organisasyon, ako sa SBP at siya naman sa PBA Board."
Talks of Gilas' participation in the all-Filipino conference heated up earlier this year as the Board of Governors welcomed the idea in a board meeting back in February.
The move is considered a big help for the national team pool, keeping them sharp and in shape in anticipation for its tournaments later this year, especially with COVID-19 restrictions on international travel.
Currently, Gilas has Isaac Go, Rey Suerte, twins Matt and Mike Nieto, and the injured Allyn Bulanadi under contract, with four more, namely William Navarro, Jaydee Tungcab, Jordan Heading, and Tzaddy Rangel set to be added through the special Gilas round in the upcoming PBA Rookie Draft.
It's still unclear if cadets, among them Justine Baltazar, Dwight Ramos, brothers Juan and Javi Gomez de Liano, Dave Ildefonso, and Kemark Carino, as well as prospective naturalized player Ange Kouame will all be allowed to play for the Gilas team in the PBA.
It is not a new concept. The Northern Cement team competed in the PBA from 1984 to 1985 and even captured the 1985 Reinforced Conference title and since then, the national team has routinely participated in the PBA as a guest team.
The national team pool were divided into two teams - Selecta-RP and Hapee-RP - in the 2002 Governors' Cup as its preparation for the 2002 Asian Games in Busan. Both teams registered a 4-7 card and missed out on the playoffs, which led to Purefoods edging Alaska in the best-of-seven championship.
Smart Gilas entered the 2010 Philippine Cup, going 3-6 in its assignment but figured in controversy after the national team's heated battle against the Burger King Whoppers, which led to Wynne Arboleda attacking a fan and his subsequent suspension. Purefoods swept Alaska in the Finals to win the crown.
The Rajko Toroman-coached Philippine squad was also brought in for the 2011 Commissioner's Cup in lieu of Barako Bull, which filed for a leave of absence. Smart Gilas finished second in the eliminations with a 7-2 record, but fell to Ginebra in the best-of-five semis. Talk 'N Text captured the throne after a 4-2 series win over the Gin Kings.
The PBA has also staged special tournaments to accommodate the national team in the past.
The first was in 1998 when the pro league staged the Centennial Cup, with the Philippine Centennial Team going 1-7 in the eliminations while Mobiline upended Shell in the title game.
It was revisited in 2003 with the PBA Invitational Cup, where the Cebuana Lhuillier-backed Philippine team finished with a 1-3 win-loss record and saw Alaska best Coca Cola in the best-of-three finals.
Powerade Team Pilipinas also had a pair of exhibition games in the 2008-09 season against an Australian team, while the league also allowed the national team to play in its All-Star Game numerous times, with the current iteration of the Gilas team seeing action in the midseason showcase in 2013 to 2014 and 2017 to 2018.
Whatever format the two parties decide, Barrios said that it's clear between the SBP and the PBA that they want Gilas to see action this season.
"Maliwanag na gusto namin magkaroon ng something in that nature," he said.