CHANCES are Justine Brownlee won’t be back for another tour of duty for Barangay Ginebra.
At least not for this season.
PBA commissioner Willie Marcial admitted it would be difficult to stage a conference with imports this year once the go-signal is given for the league to finally resume its 45th season.
Besides, he doubts if there would be enough overseas talent willing to risk and take their acts in the country with no vaccine yet available for COVID-19.
If and when play gets to restart, the PBA chief said the Philippine Cup is really the best option for the league to take.
“Kapag nagsimula ito (season) within this year, all-Filipino tayo, Yun ang logical na dapat nating gawin,” said Marcial, who has for the past weeks been working on getting the league ready should the IATF (Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases) gives its approval for teams to start training by small groups.
“At palagay ko papayag ang mga governors kasi ang hirap nga, baka ang mga imports hindi pumunta.”
Such uncertainty meant Brownlee, the Kings’ resident import the past four years, and other reinforcements, both old and new ones, won’t be around to play in the regular two import-spiced tournaments of the league.
Brownlee steered Barangay Ginebra to a third Governors Cup championship last year and is certainly looking forward of defending the title with the Kings.
On the other hand, San Miguel is the reigning Commissioner’s Cup champion, with Chris McCullough leading the team to the title last year.
If ever, it will mark the first time in the long history of Asia’s first ever pro league that no imports will see action for an entire season.
During the economic crisis in 1984, the PBA held back-to-back All-Filipino conferences in an effort to help teams cut on their respective operating expenses.
But after seeing how gate attendance suffered, the PBA Board eventually relented on bringing the imports back in time for the Invitational Championship, which served as the final conference of the season.
While the commissioner is not totally closing the door on imports, it’s going to be a long-shot seeing Brownlee and Co. suiting up in the league this year.
“Yun nga, one, papayag ba silang pumunta rito? Two, pag pinapunta mo rito ang imports, 14 days (na quarantine),” said Marcial.
“Paano kung papalitan mo yun, e di another 14 days (quarantine). Baka mamaya semifinals na,” he added.
“So depende. Step by step (tayo). Tingnan natin kung puwede o hindi.”