PBA seeks return to old glory with changes, improvements

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PBA commissioner Willie Marcial (middle) talks about rule changes to be implemented this season. —AUGUST DELA CRUZ

MANILA, Philippines–The Philippine Basketball Association’s intention of returning to its prepandemic mission of restoring the league’s former glory has prompted some changes that league leadership hopes will boost fan interest when the 48th season tips off on November 5.

Rule changes and a shift in television channel, albeit under the production of the same network that has shown the games for more than a decade, are among the different things taking effect after the previous three seasons were held with the global COVID-19 health crisis in mind.

“Our goal is to reinvigorate the PBA and get to where we (were), prepandemic. That’s what we want moving forward,” league chairman Ricky Vargas said in Tuesday’s season launch at Diamond Hotel.

One noticeable difference from last season is the change in tip-off times, with Wednesday and Friday doubleheaders set at 4 p.m. and 8 p.m. and weekend matches tipping off at 3 p.m. and 6:15 p.m. based on the official schedule provided to media in the launch.

That change, it turned out, is a result of TV5—the league’s old home—forging an agreement to have A2Z air the games.
A2Z is a free-to-air channel under Zoe Broadcasting Corporation and has a current block time deal with ABS-CBN.

The move comes with TV5 getting an increased number of programs, particularly those produced by ABS-CBN under a separate agreement, that in the past few years has affected the airing of PBA games.

Some PBA games were shown on a delayed basis on TV5 or One Sports and had to be cut short once the final buzzer sounded to give way to shows like the popular Batang Quiapo series starring Coco Martin.

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The addition of the UAAP and the Premier Volleyball League to One Sports’ programming has also doubled the challenge of airing PBA games.

“I have to acknowledge that earlier this year, TV5 has focused on entertainment and news,” said TV5 president Guido Zaballero, who attended the press conference to explain the shift. “Now we have a solid entertainment and news channel, as well as a sports channel. So it’s a good balance of both.”

TV5 will still produce the games, with innovations to include showing the same video review referees see as part of Coaches Challenge, which will be finally implemented after a test run in the PBA On Tour exhibition series.

While the option for coaches to have at least one challenge to overturn a call was expectedly going to get through, one change came out as a surprise, especially after Gilas Pilipinas’ historic run to the Hangzhou Asian Games gold.

The option of players calling a timeout, especially when the situation calls for it, is no more, as the PBA will be applying the same rule being implemented by Fiba where only coaches can make that call during a deadball situation.

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“We were just looking at how to make the league better,” said PBA commissioner Willie Marcial. The league had earlier formed a competition committee and met with coaches a few weeks ago to discuss the new changes. INQ

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