Ginebra and B-MEG, two of the most popular teams in the Philippine Basketball Association, may have been eliminated already, but the league remains confident that the Philippine Cup semifinals will still bring in fans to the games.
With an interesting pair of matchups featuring old rivals on one side and new blood on the other, PBA commissioner Chito Salud believes that the quality of the games will be enough to draw the crowds.
“Yes, Ginebra and B-MEG are the biggest crowd drawers in the PBA, but fans have better reasons of coming to the games in the semis,” he said. “This will be an exciting and interesting semis, which I’m sure our fans will truly love.”
The best-of-seven semifinals kick off on January 4, with the Rain or Shine Elasto Painters facing the Powerade Tigers, two teams that pulled off upsets against higher seeds in the quarterfinals. The other semis bracket kicks off on January 5, which features the Talk ‘N Text Tropang Texters and the Petron Blaze Boosters, bitter rivals who figured in two finals matchups last season.
Instead of the traditional doubleheader, the PBA is rolling out one semis game each night from January 4 to 11, a format reminiscent of conference finals in the National Basketball Association.
Former PBA commissioner Sonny Barrios, who now serves as executive director of the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas, said that having new blood in the semifinals can be a positive for the league.
“The entry of Powerade and Rain or Shine is a sign that the league is now becoming more balanced and unpredictable,” he said, adding that parity among the teams is great for the PBA.
“Kung puwede nga lang na all 10 teams competing in the PBA will be competitive enough to vie for a semis or a championship seat, that would be much better for the PBA, which remains the No. 1 basketball league in the country.”
The final four semifinals also feature no sister teams in the brackets for the first time since the 2009 Philippine Cup, which saw Alaska battle Sta. Lucia and Talk ‘N Text take on San Miguel.
Rain or Shine coach Yeng Guiao said that the entry of two previously unheralded teams into the semis signals a “new era” in the PBA. The thrilling wins by Powerade against B-MEG and Rain or Shine in its first game against Ginebra, he said, will be remembered and appreciated by the league’s supporters.
“I’m sure these type of games will bring in the fans to the coliseum. Matalino ang mga PBA fans natin.”
For Rain or Shine co-owner Raymond Yu, it’s an opportunity for his players to showcase their game to a bigger audience and win not just games, but more support.
“This will be the emergence of new stars playing in the big scene,” he said. “But this will be an opportunity for younger fans to see what our team is capable of doing. I’m sure Rain or Shine and Powerade will give their all to bring the fans to the coliseum.”
Powerade governor JB Baylon said that the presence of top draft picks in the Rain or Shine-Powerade series should make it a classic.
“I hope the PBA fans will like what they will witness, despite the absence of the Barangay Ginebra Gin Kings,” Baylon wrote on his Facebook account.
Shift to sister team?
Talk ‘N Text coach Chot Reyes said that the semis will be able to capture the attention of fans simply because of the quality of the teams.
“The semis will be interesting because it features the four best teams this conference, period,” Reyes wrote in a text message.
Reyes added that he expects fans of Ginebra and B-MEG to support Petron, their sister team under the San Miguel Corporation umbrella.
Ginebra and B-MEG supporters online, however, seem to indicate more interest in the Rain or Shine-Powerade matchup. Fans of Ginebra, which was swept by Rain or Shine in the quarterfinals, want Powerade to win to avenge the Gin Kings’ loss to the Elasto Painters. B-MEG fans, meanwhile, seem to be rooting for Rain or Shine to defeat Powerade, the conquerors of the Llamados in an epic upset.
AKTV/Pranz Kaeno Billones