THE Maharlika Pilipinas Basketball League (MPBL) signified its determination to give its currently suspended Lakan Season a proper conclusion when conditions permit it to do so.
Speaking at the online Philippine Sportswriters Association Forum on Tuesday, MPBL Commissioner Kenneth Duremdes said the league is monitoring the situation with the coronavirus pandemic and studying its options on the possible resumption of league action.
The MPBL was already deep into the playoffs of the Lakan Season when it decided to suspend action in March as the coronavirus pandemic began to take further root in the country.
Competition was down to four teams — San Juan, Makati, Davao Occidental, and Basilan — which were battling in the two best-of-three division finals series.
The San Juan Knights were up against the Makati Super Crunch in the North Division finals, while the Davao Occidental Tigers were fighting the Basilan Steel in the South Division.
Both series are tied at 1-1 with a rubber match left to play to determine which teams advance to the best-of-five Lakan Cup finals.
“For the MPBL, the plan, as per our founder Senator Manny Pacquiao, is to finish the national finals, the finals of the Lakan Season. Right now we’re still in wait-and-see since non-professional leagues are still not allowed to resume. We are following the guidelines of the government and we cannot do much yet,” said Mr. Duremdes in Filipino.
“But we have already written to the IATF (Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases) to allow us to resume our remaining season and we’re just waiting for its response. But we are confident that it would be granted, since it seems the direction is towards that, with the pro leagues and collegiate leagues already allowed to resume some activities,” he added.
Mr. Duremdes said further that if and when they are allowed to resume, they already have plans in place, including holding a “bubble” where teams, players, and league officials will be in one area for a duration of time while the tournament is being held.
The MPBL will try to follow the lead of the Philippine Basketball Association, which is considering to hold a bubble of its own in resuming action next month, but Mr. Duremdes said the MPBL has to really prepare well and cover all the bases, including providing the proper testing for the coronavirus, if its return is to succeed.
“So we’ll just see how things unfold and wait for further announcement from the government as for the guidelines.”
The MPBL commissioner shared that a lot of local government units have expressed intention to host the games and that they truly appreciate the gesture.
Among venues being considered for the tournament is Araneta Coliseum in Quezon City and Subic in Zambales.
Another is an area in Tanay, Rizal, owned by former senator and Knights owner Jinggoy Estrada, which the league is looking at as it has a gym and guest rooms to accommodate the players and teams.
Mr. Duremdes said doing a bubble should not be too tough for them as compared to other leagues, since they would be dealing with a fewer number of people in such a setup when they resume.
“Right after the first day, two teams will leave the bubble since it will be knockout matches. So basically, there will only be two teams left for much of the time in the bubble. And since we don’t have a TV broadcast partner right now, the number of people will be further cut,” he said.
ABS-CBN Sports used to air MPBL games until it was forced to shut down after its parent’s franchise renewal was not approved by the government.
Apart from forcing the league to suspend its Lakan Season, the coronavirus pandemic also moved the MPBL to cancel its 2020-21 season altogether.
It is something Mr. Duremdes said was a tough decision to make, but the right thing to do, considering prevailing conditions.
But he is hopeful that the year-long break would afford the league and its member teams to regroup and come back stronger next year. — Michael Angelo S. Murillo