IATF OK for Gyms reignites hopes for PBA opening this month

The Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) on Friday welcomed the decision of the Interagency Working Group on Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) to allow gyms to operate at limited capacity.

PBA Commissioner Willie Marcial expressed his enthusiasm, telling the Inquirer later in the afternoon: “This is a sign that the country is getting closer to reopening.”

On the contrary, the easing, which fell under the IATF’s June 10 resolution, indicates that the PBA remains on track for a season opening in late June or early July.

Twelve of the league’s member teams have been training without a hitch for nearly a month now. Nine teams took over the PBA’s closed-circuit program in Batangas City, while corporate siblings TNT, NLEX and Meralco held bubble camps in northern towns.

With the announcement of the IATF, teams can now return to their default grounds in Metro Manila, provided they only hold streamlined cluster practices and their respective gyms achieve Seal certifications of security now required by the government.

This is why Marcial prefers to wait until June 15 before taking action.

“We have long since gotten the signal from the task force to organize scrimmages. So I’d rather just wait for a [classification] downgrade because it would be a lot easier for all of us, ”he said.

“What I am sure we intend to do soon is to consult the [Games and Amusements Board], the [Metropolitan Manila Development Authority and the Task Force for guidance for our new season,” he added.

Marcial bared last week that the PBA leadership is eyeing to stage the games at either Ynares Center in Antipolo City or the Ynares Sports Arena in Pasig City.

Meanwhile, the Japanese B.League has yet to respond to the PBA’s letter addressing Kiefer Ravena’s contractual situation.

“We’ve reached out to the league’s president Shinji Shimada. Although we have not heard from him yet,” Marcial said. “I’ve already talked to Kiefer after Saturday’s press briefing, told him about the Board’s decision, and he said ‘OK po.’”

The Shiga Lakestars, in a surprise announcement last June 2, said that it has signed the NLEX playmaker as an Asian import for the upcoming B.League season.

Two days later, the PBA, through a hastily-arranged press briefing, officially thumbed down Ravena’s bid to play in Japan. Ravena has a live contract with NLEX until 2023. INQ

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