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    PBA board considering another 'bubble season' in wake of delays

    Apr 5, 2021
    PHOTO: Gerry Ramos

    THE PBA board will convene in a special meeting next week to plot its next course of action as stricter quarantine protocols forced a stop to teams' practices and pushed back the launch of the league's 2021 season.

    Commissioner Willie Marcial admitted on Monday the league's season plans are shrouded in uncertainty after the government enforced another lockdown in Metro Manila and neighboring provinces due to a spike in COVID-19 cases.

    The Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ) raised over Metro Manila and provinces like Bulacan, Laguna and Rizal ruled out the league's planned April 18 season launch at the Ynares Center in Antipolo, which is part of the NCR plus bubble.

    The government has since extended EQC by at least a week until April 11 and experts do not expect it to be downgraded immediately to General Community Quarantine (GCQ) - the only quarantine level wherein PBA practices can resume.

    Malacanang is expected to impose a Modified Enhanced Community Quarantine (MECQ) for a week from April 12.

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    Under the circumstances, Marcial is looking at mid to late May as a realistic target for the season launch.

    "Mahirap pang sabihin at this time," said Marcial, pointing out that the situation will be very much dependent on the health situation in the country.

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      Marcial expects more clarity on the season plans when he and the league board convene by next week to recalibrate the target schedule and take up other pertinent matters, including the financial status of the league and its teams.

      "The board will study the league's finances and take up other important matters," he said. "After that, mas alam na natin kung saan tayo papunta."

      The league chief was non-committal when asked if possible salary cuts on players and other team staff will be discussed.

      As it is, the 12 PBA ballclubs have paid salaries of all players, coaches, trainers and staff in full for the past 16 months - a span that saw the league hold just a two-month conference under a bubble format inside the Clark Freeport Zone in Pampanga.

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      Marcial said the board isn't ruling out mounting another 'bubble season' if the situation doesn't improve, but admitted that it will be a 'last option' because of the huge cost involved as well as the mental strain on the players.

      Marcial said he has started consultations with some veteran players on their willingness to play another conference under a bubble format.

      "Halos payag naman, pero konti pa lang 'yon," he said.

      Marcial, however, said he has seen the mental struggles of players during the last bubble and warned that a bubble shouldn't be approved unless the league is fully convinced that majority of the players are on board.

      The commissioner said the league will also need to weigh the soundness of mounting a four-month bubble beginning in May when vaccines are expected to be available to players and staff by June and July.

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        Last January, the board inserted an 'Act of God' clause in all players' contracts to give the league and its teams the leeway to 'adjust contractual teams and slash salaries' in extraordinary situations like a health emergency.

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        Already, the league invoked the 'Act of God' clause to mandate that all contracts signed by rookies will only take effect once scrimmages begin.

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        PHOTO: Gerry Ramos
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