GRAND slam coach Tommy Manotoc has lamented penalties slapped left and right in the PBA amid a campaign to impose discipline on the floor, saying it leaves the games bereft of excitement while turning players into 'robots.'
“You are trying to scare the players with their version of discipline," said Manotoc on Tuesday. "Nawawala ang individuality nung player, their personalities, which is what the PBA needs, I think. They need more personalities, they don’t want robotic players.”
A campaign to rid PBA games of dirty plays as well as a strict adherence to the rules have become the hallmark of former PBA coach Chito Narvasa's reign since he assumed the commissionership from Chito Salud in 2015.
But the league has simply gone too far, Manotoc said.
The former PBA deputy commissioner said the ever-present threat of flagrant foul calls and mounting fines slapped on players for a cache of infractions restrain players with a straightjacket.
On the other hand, the constant stoppage of play caused by 'flagrant foul' reviews leave games without any continuity or momentum, he continued.
When players are denied the freedom to show their personality on the court, it will only be a matter of time before fans lose interest, if they haven't already, Manotoc added.
“I think the (right word to describe it) is overreaction, (Narvasa) is overcautious in trying to discipline the players,” said Manotoc, a multi-titled golfer who has won six PBA championships as a coach including a grand slam with Crispa in 1983.
“(If you continue doing that), the players will lose their style because they (PBA) want you to play according to their style, they want you to be robotic and follow the referees. ‘Don’t complain, don’t say anything.’ Ganyan ang nangyayari,” he added.
“Mawawalan ng gana ang player, mawawalan din ng gana ang taong nanunuod. Maganda rin ang may color eh. Definitely that’s part of it (lack of audience), the crowd in the league is now too low tapos masyado ka pang strikto,” he said.
“Nawawala ang bravado ng players, nawawalan ng interest ang tao.”
Although disciplining players is part of Narvasa's mandate as commissioner, Manotoc said the current league chief must leave players a little more room to be themselves.
“If you notice even in the NBA there is conversation with the officials, there is rapport (between referees and players). It is not a strict rule,” he said.
“You can talk to them and I think they should talk to each other… to explain what happened, what did he see? There should be more rapport in that sense that the referee is not bad and there has been a lot of mistakes that they did not acknowledge, the referees,” he added.
To date, fines imposed by the league in the first three months of the new season have already reached P551, 900 after another round of penalties announced on Tuesday - something that surprised former PBA star Marlou Aquino.
“Ano? Kalahating milyon na agad, tatlong buwan pa lang ang season? Ang laki nun, grabe yun,” he said. “Sana hindi ganun kahigpit, sana bigyan rin ng kalayaan ang players na lumaro, huwag gawing robot, kasi sa totoo lang mawawala ang essence ng basketball, physicality at excitement.”
Aquino said the constant fear of fines will eventually discourage players from playing to their true potential.
“Takot rin siyempre gumasta mga players, kasi imbes na ibabayad mo sa fine, iipunin mo na lang o ibibigay sa pamilya. Pag ganun ang rules, fine agad, eh hindi talaga maglalabas ng laro ang mga yan, kasi may takot na eh,” said the former Ginebra slotman.
Manotoc said the PBA board should review the current system before it's too late.
“I think they (board) should look into it seriously, the powers should be looked into by the board, kasi if you just allow the commissioner to do it, baka magkaproblema sila, talagang ano siya eh, masyado siyang disciplinarian, masyado siyang power hungry, yan ang na-notice ko sa kanya,” he said.
“The league will suffer, yan ang nangyayari. If you are trying to increase popularity, you need more color," he added. "The league seems to be just dying and one day we will all wake up, it will just be Ginebra versus San Miguel (that will attract fans)."