Whenever a Philippine national basketball team doesn’t fare too well in a major international tournament, there is a negative effect on the PBA in terms of interest, attendance and TV ratings.
This is why we are confident—and so are PBA commissioner Chito Salud and chair Mamerto Mondragon—that the fine performance of the Smart Gilas national team in the recent Fiba Asia Men’s Championship in Wuhan would redound to the benefit of the PBA when its new season opens on Sunday.
After all, most of the Smart Gilas national team players will suit up for different teams, which has raised the expectancy level of the fans. High-flying Japeth Aguilar should provide some awesome dunks alongside Kelly Williams with Jimmy Alapag, who played so well in Wuhan, making the right calls for powerhouse Talk ‘N Text, back-to-back champions last season.
Former Alaska grand slam coach Tim Cone will try to weave the magic of his triangle offense with a popular and highly motivated B Meg Llamados squad backstopped by the fiery Mark Barroca. Surprise Governors Cup champions Petron will seek to blaze new trails with solid wingman Chris Lutz while his partner Marcio Lassiter is certain to show his tigerish defensive prowess and offensive skills along with streak-shooter JV Casio for the Powerade squad.
He may be getting on in years but Asi Taulava can still bring some electricity to the Meralco Bolts along with Smart Gilas reserve and big man Jason Ballesteros while feisty Marc Baracael fits nicely into the Alaska brand of play.
With an enthusiastic new television franchise holder in TV5, which telecast some of the best sports programs on its action-oriented AKTV IBC Channel 13, the fans can look forward to a new and innovative dimension in the coverage of the PBA.
We believe that with the performance of Smart Gilas in Wuhan, Philippine basketball, thanks to the passionate commitment of businessman-sportsman Manny Pangilinan, is on the right track. By placing fourth, the Philippines jumped eight notches and made it to the top 50 in world basketball. The renowned NBA superstar Clyde Drexler even commended Smart Gilas and made some welcome suggestions.
What the public wishes to see—and the PBA has responded positively—is that all 10 teams in the pro league set aside their competitive differences both on the hardcourt and in business and industry and rally around Mr. Pangilinan and his Smart Gilas program. Indeed, the PBA can set an example for the rest of the sports organizations and business enterprises to follow in the interest of the greater good.
Never mind the pessimists and the perennial prophets of doom and just go ahead and do the right thing. Imagine if Rajko Toroman and his coaching staff that included Chot Reyes, Ryan Gregorio and Charles Tiu had the benefit of tapping the likes of Arwind Santos, Gabe Norwood, James Yap and Mark Caguioa, things may have been different in Wuhan.
Happily, both the PBA board and commissioner Salud have realized that the league needs to get together. Salud and Mondragon offered to consider a 16-man PBA pool even as the youthful commissioner correctly pointed out that we have a lot of room to improve and we are taking small steps to get there.
This is no small step in the public mind. It is—and must remain—a giant leap forward.