Few things in the last 30 years can claim to have weaved its way into Philippine culture like the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA). When it comes to sports entertainment, no other league has as much top of mind in terms of awareness.
The 34th version of the PBA had some new things to look forward to. Aside from the rookies coming in, the league recommitted itself to putting up the national team for the FIBA qualifiers and appointed a new television coveror for the next three (3) years.
I just want to touch on some random observations from the first two (2) weeks of the KFC PBA Philippine Cup. First is the choice of Yeng Guiao as the head coach of the national team. I think it’s an excellent choice for Commissioner Barrios. He is a proven winner and is known to have a great feel for the strengths and weaknesses of the lineup he is coaching. He is a politician and knows how to push certain buttons and balance the egos of those around him. Lastly, I think he is one of the coaches who is most willing to get input from as many sources as possible to get the job done. He doesn’t complicate things and is focused on the task at hand.
Then there is the television coverage, which is closer to my heart since I work for Solar Entertainment. The games are now being shown on C/S 9, (formerly RPN). There were some components of the television airing that needed some improvement as we started the season. Credit needs to be given to the production team of Solar who made sure that all major kinks were addressed within a few days. This will sound subjective but I’m confident that the final product is as good as it gets as far as local sports production is concerned. It should improve even more in the coming weeks.
The broadcast philosophy of “Mass follows Class” has also had positive initial indicators. Ratings are up while the overall perception has improved. It seems many are starting to enjoy watching the PBA again.
The inclusion and focus on kids was a nice touch by the commissioner’s office. In all the years of the PBA, the opening ceremonies have not been as impactful as the opening games so at least the league gave dozens of young boys and girls the thrill of a lifetime by giving them the opportunity to meet the PBA stars.
As far as the games go, the basketball is still by far the best in the country. Even with the 4th quarter meltdown by San Miguel (formerly Magnolia), it seems that they have the lineup to beat for this conference. Despite the injuries to Danny Ildefonso and Danny Seigle still a far cry from his MVP form, the Beermen have been the most impressive for me. They have the tools to be there in the end. Jay Washington, Mick Pennisi and Bon Bon Custodio are the major additions to a team who has a good balance of youth and experience. It is also the deepest team in the league especially when the injured get healthy.
The most fun team to watch is Rain or Shine (formerly Welcoat). Their youthful energy is contagious and coach Caloy Garcia has adopted a new system to take advantage of the overall speed of the team. Gabe Norwood, Sol Mercado and Ty Tang might actually be the best trio of rookies coming in. Talk ‘n Text was the clear winner of the draft with Dillinger, Castro and Reyes but the Elasto Painters’ set of rookies are giving them a run for their money. Dillinger, Norwood, and Mercado will be fighting it out for Rookie of the Year.
Kelly Williams is still the most talented player in the league with Willie Miller a close second.
The overall athletic level of play right now is probably at the highest in the 34 years of the PBA. It is still a few levels below the NBA and even the European League, but it is certainly top tier in Asia.
Alaska is the second deepest team after San Miguel. They have yet to utilize their rookies and their rotation seems to already have depth in all positions.
A lot of people have said that Talk ‘N Text has one of the best teams on paper. They have all the tools to go far in the conference. But you don’t win games on paper, you win them on the court. I agree they have the talent but they still have chemistry issues and they have not yet played a full 48 minutes of good basketball.
The Red Bull lineup looks like a very good PBL team. Yeng has worked wonders with weak lineups before but he will need a more vocal leader since his best player (Baguio) is as quiet as a mime and doesn’t inspire unless he plays well. The team is fueled by emotion and needs someone on the court who is an extension of coach Yeng’s character.Overall, it’s been a fun start to the new season and there are enough going on to keep the interest of a lot of fans going