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    How PBA teams prepared for PH Cup and how the pandemic affected their plans

    Sep 26, 2020

    THE PBA is a few weeks away from resuming its 2020 Philippine Cup during the COVID-19 pandemic after the league got the nod to return play from the Inter-Agency Task Force but in a bubble. More than six months have passed since the league played it last game with San Miguel beating Magnolia in the opener last March 8 before suspending play due to the virus.

    As we count the days to the return of the PBA to be held in Pampanga, allow us to remind you what happened to each of the teams before and during the suspension of play.

    ALASKA

    Before pandemic: The Aces made major moves with Michael DiGregorio being the latest addition, acquiring the sniper in a trade from TNT for Simon Enciso. DiGregorio’s presence seemed to have risen the play of the Aces, who came up with an impressive preseason campaign.

    During pandemic: Sonny Thoss was relegated to the free agent list in the weeks before the bubble, with Alaska team governor Dickie Bachmann saying that Thoss has retired after 16 years with the Aces.

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    BLACKWATER

    Before pandemic: Changes were made at the top with champion college coach and former TNT mentor Nash Racela being hired by the Elite looking to imbibe a consistent winning culture in the team. The Elite got bigger when they drafted Maurice Shaw in the draft, and picked up a defensive stopper in Ron Dennison in a trade with Phoenix.

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    During pandemic: News related to the team were mostly from the top, with Blackwater owner Dioceldo Sy baring last July that the Elite conducted trainings which were made prior to the government approval. In frustration, Sy said he would put his franchise up for sale, a statement that irked members of the PBA board of governors. Sy was meted with a P100,000 fine for holding unsanctioned practices during the pandemic.

    BARANGAY GINEBRA

    Before pandemic: Fresh from its 2019 Governors’ Cup title reign, Tim Cone was adamant about the goal of the Gin Kings – to win an all-Filipino crown. The Gin Kings, however, would lose a player after Greg Slaughter decided he will take a sabbatical after his contract with the team expired at the end of 2019. Following Slaughter’s absence, little changes were made in the team with rookies Arvin Tolentino and Jerrick Balanza breaking the opening day line-up.

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    During pandemic: Governors’ Cup finals MVP Japeth Aguilar was involved in a controversy after being caught playing in a 5-on-5 game while contact sports were still not allowed during quarantine. Aguilar was fined P20,000 for his involvement in the scrimmage.

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    COLUMBIAN/TERRA FIRMA

    Before pandemic: The Dyip welcomed new faces that would anchor Rookie of the Year CJ Perez. Roosevelt Adams was picked by Columbian in last year’s draft, and got Aldrech Ramos in a trade for Jackson Corpuz. Rookies Bonbon Batiller and Christian Balagasay also made the opening day roster.

    During pandemic: The franchise bared it will make a name change as the team will now be called Terra Firma following a transfer of ownership that was approved by the board last June.

    MERALCO

    Before pandemic: The Bolts were about to play the Philippine Cup last March without Raymond Almazan, who was just the big man the team needed during the non-import conferences. However, Almazan suffered an injury during the Governors’ Cup finals and was supposed to be out for a few months during the conference.

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    During pandemic: The break gave Raymond Almazan time to heal from his meniscal tear, and will return to the Bolts for the coming bubble in Clark.

    NLEX

    Before pandemic: A trade changed the complexion of the Road Warriors squad when they gave up the vastly-improved Poy Erram to sister team TNT last February. NLEX didn’t lose another big man though when Asi Taulava decided that he will play his 21st year in the PBA.

    During pandemic: Determined to see a season held, NLEX coach Yeng Guiao was one of the first persons to call the league to make actions for the league to resume play. It was also Guiao who suggested to hold a bubble in Clark, which was later chosen as the site for the PBA restart. Larry Fonacier and Cyrus Baguio, however, will not be part of the bubble for different reasons.

    NORTHPORT

    Before pandemic: Buoyed by its impressive semifinal finish in the Governors’ Cup, NorthPort’s hopes were high despite the absence of the recovering Robert Bolick. Christian Standhardinger won the Best Player of the Conference the previous conference, and the Batang Pier got bigger with the entry of Kelly Nabong via trade last January.

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    During pandemic: The suspension of play allowed Bolick to recover from his ACL injury last year, but team officials decided not to include the former San Beda cager in the bubble to avoid the risk of reinjury.

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      PHOENIX SUPER LPG

      Before pandemic: As Phoenix waited for the indefinite suspension of Calvin Abueva to be lifted, Phoenix looked to regroup to bounce back from its two playoff misses in 2019. The Fuel Masters added pieces by taking reliable players Jake Pascual and Brian Heruela for the 2020 season.

      During pandemic: The Fuel Masters found themselves making a coaching change earlier this month after firing Louie Alas. Before the move, Alas was suspended for 15 days for violating protocols during the resumption of practices. Topex Robinson took over on an interim basis. Heading into the bubble, however, was a downer for Phoenix as the still-suspended Calvin Abueva was disallowed to be part of the Fuel Masters’ delegation in the bubble.

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        MAGNOLIA

        Before pandemic: After making a deal to acquire Chris Banchero during the Governors’ Cup, the Hotshots continued their build-up during the offseason by acquiring all-around player Jackson Corpuz in a trade last December. Magnolia actually played in the only official game of the Philippine Cup, bowing to San Miguel, 94-78, before the league was stopped days after due to the virus.

        During pandemic: An era of Magnolia/Purefoods basketball ended when PJ Simon announced his retirement a few days ago. Simon played for 16 years with the franchise including the only match of the conference so far.

        SAN MIGUEL

        Before pandemic: San Miguel’s bid for a sixth straight Philippine Cup crown were dealt with an obstacle after six-time MVP June Mar Fajardo suffered a fracture in his right tibia. Still, the Beermen were seen as title contender with their deep roster led by Commissioner’s Cup finals MVP Terrence Romeo. San Miguel’s title retention got off to a high note after its victory over Magnolia before the postponement of games.

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        During pandemic: The postponement allowed Fajardo to rehab and recover without missing games for the Beermen, but San Miguel opted not to include its prized big man in the delegation in the bubble in Clark.

        RAIN OR SHINE

        Before pandemic: The Elastopainters kept their build-up for the future by signing up their rookies Vince Tolentino, Adrian Wong, Prince Rivero, and Clint Doliguez for the 2020 season. Rain or Shine got even younger as the rookies joined Rey Nambatac and Javee Mocon in the roster, while keeping its veteran core intact.

        During pandemic: Even though he has yet to play an official PBA game in his career, Adrian Wong was sanctioned by the PBA last July for being part of a 5-on-5 scrimmage during quarantine. The Ateneo rookie was fined P20,000 for the infraction.

        TNT

        Before pandemic: In a bid to strengthen its bid for a title, the KaTropa acquired Poy Erram in a trade from NLEX last February that shored up their frontline that could challenge the rest of the league. It completed an active offseason for TNT that also saw the team obtain Simon Enciso, Ed Daquioag, and J-Jay Alejandro join the squad.

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        During pandemic: Because of the controversy surrounding his comments about the landscape of Philippine basketball, Tab Baldwin was removed as assistant coach of TNT last June. Prior to the decision of the team, the concurrent Gilas Pilipinas program director was fined P75,000 and suspended three games for comments ‘detrimental to the league.’ The KaTropa will play in the bubble without one of their veterans after Kelly Williams decided to call it a career last September after 13 years in the PBA, nine with the KaTropa.
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