FOLLOWING a lively offseason of wheeling and dealing that saw most of the 10 ball clubs retool their rosters, PBA commissioner Chito Salud is optimistic the pro league is headed for another banner year when it unveils its 38th season on Sunday at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Salud believes the pro league is poised to break the more than P100 million in revenues it generated from gate receipts alone last season – thanks to more balanced lineups, new faces adorning the top teams, and the entry of blue-chip rookies this campaign.
“Our product is the game and the game is our product. We’re looking forward with excitement that we could build on the gains we had from last season,” beamed Salud during Wednesday’s press launch of the new season at the Diamond Hotel.
Salud said top overall rookie pick June Mar Fajardo, last season’s NCAA MVP Calvin Abueva, Fil-Americans Alex Mallari, Cliff Hodge, Chris Ellis and Keith Jensen, and former Smart Gilas standout Aldrech Ramos will bring added excitement to the pro league with their athleticism and youthful zeal.
“Our fans have clearly spoken. They want a fast-paced game and they want balanced competition. Year in and year out, they are also looking for rookies who will challenge the status quo. I feel these are the elements that we can build on for this coming season,” added Salud, who will be teaming up with incoming board chairman Robert Non.
The season will kick off with a colorful opening ceremonies beginning at 4:30 p.m., highlighted by a tribute to the Smart Gilas 2.0 team of coach Chot Reyes, which won the William Jones Cup last month, ending the country’s 14-year title drought in the Taipei tournament.
The lone game set at 6 p.m. will be between souped-up Barangay Ginebra San Miguel and newcomer Global Port, owned by sportsmans-businessman Mikee Romero.
In a bid to make the pro game more exciting and fast-paced, Salud has announced a couple of new rules, including one that will now allow a player who dives for a loose ball to slide on the floor without being whistled for a traveling infraction.
The son of former PBA commissioner Rudy Salud, explained that the new rule “gives credit to the hustle plays displayed by a player without nipping the fans’ excitement.”
The inter-intra format will be in place in the elimination round, with the 10 teamsdivided into two groups. Each team will play its group mates once and the teams in the other group twice.
Group A consists of Air21, Meralco, Petron Blaze, Barangay Ginebra San Miguel and San Mig Coffee (formerly B-Meg Derby Ace) while Group B will be made up of defending Philippine Cup champion Talk ‘N Text, Alaska, Barako Bull, Rain or Shine and newcomer Global Port.