PBA’s bid to hold import conference for the first time in pandemic era hits scheduling snag

Justin Brownlee, who spearheaded some of Barangay Ginebra’s most dramatic triumphs, will be back to lead the defending champion Gin Kings. —SHERWIN VARDELEON

With only five imports in town so far and the rest expected to arrive in trickles and serve five-day quarantines, the PBA is seriously looking at pushing the opening of the Governors’ Cup back another week from its original Nov. 28 schedule.

That’s because commissioner Willie Marcial believes that each import should have at least “8 to 10 days of practice” with his squad, and the PBA chief doesn’t see that happening with the reports he has gotten from the teams that are awaiting for the arrival of their respective reinforcements.‍

Visas have also been tough to acquire for some of them.

“I’m setting a sort of deadline of having everyone arrive out of [the five-day] quarantine by Nov. 20 at the latest,” Marcial told the Inquirer over the phone. “But from what I have heard from the teams, there are a lot of them who won’t be able to make it by that date.”

KJ McDaniels, the former TNT import, will spearhead NLEX this time. He is already in town like San Miguel Beer’s Brandon Brown, NorthPort’s Cameron Forte, Antonio Hester of Terrafirma and Olu Ashaolu of Alaska.

LGU decision

Meanwhile, Marcial is holding high hopes that he can have the fans back in the stands as early as the second week of the season-ending conference.

“We only need to talk to the LGU (local government unit) of the venue we will be playing at,” Marcial said as he aims to move the tournament out of the Ynares Sports Center in Pasig after the first week to either Smart Araneta Coliseum in Cubao, Quezon City, or the Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay.

“Unlike before when we needed to talk to the IATF (Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases), the host LGU now will have a final say on crowd attendance depending on its judgment after restrictions have eased lately.”

Henry Walker of Rain or Shine and Mike Harris of Magnolia are returning imports and are expected to plane in later in the week at the earliest.

Jaylen Bond will banner Blackwater, Paul Harris returns to play for Phoenix this time and NBA veteran Shabazz Muhammad suits up for Meralco with Allen Durham unavailable.

Barangay Ginebra will tap Justin Brownlee for another tour of duty as the Gin Kings seek to successfully defend the crown.

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