PBA's plan for two-conference season in jeopardy due to COVID spike

The Philippine government's extension of the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) in NCR Plus has jeopardized the PBA's proposed 2021 season which includes an import conference.

PBA commissioner Willie Marcial admitted that the pro league's season plans are put on hold with the COVID-19 cases experiencing a massive spike over the last three weeks.

"All we could do at this point is to wait and comply with what the government is saying especially since the ECQ has been extended," Marcial told ESPN5 on Sunday in Filipino.

"Even the import conference will depend on what the government will say if imports will be allowed (to come to the country)," he added.

Early last March, PBA chairman Ricky Vargas talked announced that the league is looking at a 10-month, two-conference season this year.

Originally slated to start on April 11, it was eventually moved to April 18 when the COVID-19 cases started to increase in the middle of March.

And based on board meeting last March, the top executives of the PBA approved a four-month Philippine Cup and a six-month Governors' Cup this year.

However, Marcial admitted that the April 18 start date won't push through and he isn't inclined to issue a tentative date given the volatility of the health situation in the country.

"Definitely, it (2021 season) won't start on April 18. And even if I set a tentative date this June, what if we get the green light to start the season in May? So it's hard to give a tentative date at this point," explained Marcial, who was recently awarded the title Mr. Executive in the PBA Press Corps virtual Awards Night.

Marcial said the next board meeting remains fluid at this point, though foremost in his mind once they convene is discussing the season plans.

The league commissioner explained that holding a bubble, similar to what the PBA did in 2020, isn't likely due to several factors that have to be considered.

"Again, the mental health of the players will have to be considered if we are to hold another PBA bubble," shared Marcial. "The two-month bubble was somehow okay for the players, but four months? That's gonna be a big challenge."

Meanwhile, Alaska team governor Dickie Bachman remains hopeful that amid the uncertainty this year, the pro league could still push through with its two-conference plan.

"It (ECQ) will delay our plans to open this season but this is beyond our control." Bachman said. "Safety of everyone is our no. 1 concern. Hopefully, we would still be able to squeeze in one to two conferences scenario this year."