Fans couldn’t hide their excitement even after the PBA released the official schedule of the 45th season resumption on Sunday under a bubble setup in Clark, Pampanga
Even if they are prohibited from seeing their favorite teams and players in person at the campus of Angeles University Foundation, fans will still glue to their television after waiting for months for the PBA to finally resume amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Below are the first of a series of elimination round games we believe are some of the most anticipated.
TNT Tropang Giga vs Alaska Aces (Oct. 11)
Not only will this game mark the official resumption of the PBA Philippine Cup, but also the debut of center Poy Erram as a member of the Tropang Giga.
Erram, acquired from NLEX in a three-team trade that also involved Blackwater, was supposed to don the TNT jersey for the first time last March 11, but that date became best remembered for the PBA’s decision to suspend the season.
His ability to play in and out coupled with his defensive prowess finally gives coach Bong Ravena and active consultant Mark Dickel an inside presence TNT needs in order to contend for the crown.
Alaska, meanwhile, will try to spoil TNT’s bid behind Vic Manuel and Jeron Teng, who will be trusted in a much bigger role by coach Jeffrey Cariaso.
Barangay Ginebra San Miguel vs NLEX Road Warriors (Oct. 11)
What a better way to cap off the first day of the PBA restart with the country’s most popular team pitting against a hungry ballclub eager to atone for its early exit the previous conference.
The two teams could replicate the way their last meeting ended more than a year ago, when the Road Warriors came storming back from a huge deficit to stun Ginebra with a 113-111 overtime victory in Dubai.
Ginebra is eyeing for payback, though possibly without floor general LA Tenorio, who underwent an appendectomy. If that happens, Tenorio’s record of 641 consecutive games could be in jeopardy.
Kiefer Ravena is expected to raise his game into another level as NLEX seeks to bounce back after being upset by NorthPort in last season’s Governors’ Cup quarterfinals despite holding the top seed in the playoffs.
Phoenix Super LPG Fuel Masters vs Meralco Bolts (Oct. 12)
There will be clarity in the status of Calvin Abueva by the time Phoenix takes on Meralco.
Abueva seems to be on his way to being reinstated by the league after he was included in the 15-man roster of the Fuel Masters in time for the restart. The PBA, however, said that Abueva will be eligible once he completes the requirements.
The Phoenix star is still in the process of finishing the conditions set by the Games and Amusements Board before his professional license is reinstated. It is assumed that PBA commissioner Willie Marcial will immediately lift his indefinite ban once the GAB requirements are completed.
Many will be intrigued as to how Abueva approaches his first game since June 2, 2019 when his clothesline on TNT import Terrence Jones prompted Marcial to hand the heaviest punishment of his current tenure. Will he be Abueva or old or a tamed version of “The Beast.”
San Miguel Beermen vs Rain or Shine Elasto Painters (Oct. 13)
The defending five-time champions go for a second straight win in the Philippine Cup after San Miguel’s 94-78 beating of Magnolia on March 8 was included in the team standings.
SMB showed that it can still be a potent team despite the absence of June Mar Fajardo, with Terrence Romeo, Arwind Santos and Mo Tautuaa playing key roles in their win over Magnolia.
But the Beermen are likely to get a stern test from the Elasto Painters, who could be recalled having an impressive showing in last year’s All-Filipino tourney by reaching the semifinals as the top seed. The run, however, was derailed as Rain or Shine lost to Magnolia in seven games.
Third-year southpaw Rey Nambatac and sophomore Javee Mocon enter the restart with high expectations after performing well for Rain or Shine during the 2019 campaign.
Terrafirma Dyip vs TNT Tropang Giga (Oct. 13)
Fil-American Roosevelt Adams looks to start off his PBA career on a high note even though Terrafirma (formerly Columbian) is likely to get its hands full against TNT.
The 6-foot-5 Adams, chosen first in the regular PBA Draft last December, is out to show his versatility as seen during his time with Go for Gold in the PBA D-League and Mighty Sports during its title runs in the William Jones Cup and Dubai Invitational.
Attention will also be on Dyip star CJ Perez, who will look to build on his impressive pro debut that resulted in winning the PBA Rookie of the Year honors.
But Perez and Adams won’t be enough if Terrafirma wants to upset the talent-laden TNT.
(To be continued)