MANILA, Philippines—Assured by the promise of “no collusion” among the sister teams, the 37th Season of the Philippine Basketball Association, with an all-time high of three franchises owning multiple teams, was launched in earnest Wednesday.
Crowd favorite Barangay Ginebra will take on Rain or Shine in the lone match taking the lid off the Philippine Cup eliminations after the usual colorful opening ceremony at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum.
Only a total of six companies own the 10 teams in the field, with the San Miguel group continuing to have its three squads—Barangay Ginebra, Petron and B-Meg—and the PLDT franchise, aside from having Talk ‘N Text, also owning the Meralco Bolts.
Bert Lina became the third multiple owner after buying the Barako Bull franchise in the off-season, converting the squad to Shopinas while renaming Air21 as the Barako Bull Energy.
But commissioner Chito Salud declared during Wednesday’s press conference that the teams will be playing on their own merits.
“I haven’t seen indications that sister teams are giving way to each other (in the past),” Salud said. “Our format this year will ensure that, and I will be much stricter in three-way trades this year.”
“I’d rather err on the side of caution,” added Salud.
Barangay Ginebra board representative Robert Non said he is sure that players — and ballclubs — always play to win.
“Players earn no bonuses for losing games,” Non pointed out.
The league will be trying to surpass an impressive P90 million performance at the gates last season as it welcomes a bumper crop of rookies led by No. 1 pick JV Casio, who was tabbed by the rebuilding Powerade Tigers.
Smart-Gilas’ impressive performance in the Fiba-Asia qualifying in Wuhan, China is a wave that the PBA also hopes to ride on.
Salud said the Nationals, by placing fourth, will “bring basketball higher in the consciousness of the fans.”
New chair Mamerto Mondragon of Rain or Shine also announced that a proposal to help the Smart-Gilas program by giving 16 pro players to the pool is also in the works.
Talk ‘N Text, the defending champion, will be in the spotlight following its failure to pull off a historic grand slam in the Governors’ Cup, which undermanned Petron Blaze won.
The league will also have a new television coveror in AKTV5, which will broadcast the games over Channel 13.
Philippine Cup format calls for each team to play a total of 14 games, with the top eight teams advancing to the quarterfinals and the bottom two squads getting the boot.
The second conference, the Commissioner’s Cup, will have each team enlisting imports of unlimited height, while the season-ending Governors’ Cup will limit teams to reinforcements of 6-foot-5 and below.
Sunday’s game time will be at 6 p.m., just after elaborate opening ceremonies scheduled at 4 highlighted by the traditional parade of teams and their muses.