WHILE most people are going to be on vacation, some of the country’s finest basketball players are making a bit of a sacrifice on Christmas Day when the PBA Philippine Cup playoffs unfold.
Four teams are set to take the Mall of Asia Arena court in the first phase of the quarterfinals with GlobalPort taking on Barako Bull at 4:15 p.m. before Barangay Ginebra and Star faceoff in an anticipated 7 p.m. duel to cap off the Friday doubleheader.
And no one’s complaining.
For Star coach Jason Webb, whose Hotshots reached the postseason despite losing seven of their 11 games, playing on any day, even on a holiday, simply means their conference is not yet over.
“I would rather be playing than be on vacation,” the rookie coach said. “Kahit anong araw pa yan, because as long as we’re playing, we’re alive. Mas gusto namin lahat yun.”
“Kahit New Year pa kami paglaruin,” added Webb, whose team is saddled by a twice-to-win disadvantage against the higher-seeded Gin Kings.
Ginebra, riding the momentum of a three-game winning streak, surely wants to advance quickly to the next phase of quarterfinals where the winner of the Batang Pier-Energy matchup awaits.
So for Gin Kings star forward Japeth Aguilar, the earlier they play, the better.
“Baka mawala pa yung focus eh, so kailangan concentrate sa trabaho namin,” Aguilar said.
Hotshots star James Yap also doesn’t mind playing on a holiday. After all, it’s for the fans.
“I’m sure lahat excited. Pang-Christmas namin ‘to sa mga fans ng PBA,” said the man regarded as one of the faces of the league. “Kahit papaano, mabigyan natin ng kasiyahan yung mga tao.”
Even NLEX star Asi Taulava, whose Road Warriors won’t see action until the next day on Saturday against Talk ‘N Text, is relishing the opportunity to play on the day celebrating the birth of Jesus.
“Those are the best games to live for,” the ageless slotman said. “We love the Christmas Day games. It’s a big treat for the fans.”
“Without the fans, we wouldn’t be who we are today,” he added. “The PBA wouldn’t last, and there wouldn’t be an NLEX or other teams (if it weren’t for the fans), so it’s really for them.”
So for those playing, they are making sure the fans get their money’s worth.
“I’m sure hindi nila makakalimutan ‘to,” Yap said. “Bibigyan namin ng magandang laban.”
But they won’t be there just to give each other and the fans a good fight.
“A win is probably the best Christmas gift I can give,” Gin Kings star center Greg Slaughter said.
“In the end, panalo dito yung fans,” Webb said. “It’s probably one of the best Christmas Day games – situation-wise, that they’d like to see.”