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Pacquiao makes PBA debut today

Manny Pacquiao Kia Basketball

Games Today (PH Arena, Bocaue, Bulacan)
1:30 p.m. – Opening Ceremony
3 p.m. – Blackwater vs Kia Cars
5:15 p.m. – TNT vs Ginebra

If the estimates prove accurate, there could be no way Floyd Mayweather Jr. would be able to summon a huge crowd as today outside a boxing ring. A red carpet, meanwhile, awaits Manny Pacquiao when he steps into the 55,000-sitting capacity Philippine Arena for the opening of the 40th season of the Philippine Basketball Association.

Get Michael Buffer over to announce that everybody is ready to rumble.

Men and women of different faith and basketball affiliation are expected to flock in droves to perhaps the biggest indoor stadium in the world – the Iglesia Ni Cristo-owned Philippines Arena – when a three-month break ends and officially ushers in a brand new PBA era: 12 ballclubs and three new teams, a visionary board chairman, a Grand Slam champion seeking immortality and a boxing icon returning to the roots of his childhood dreams.

Oh, and Barangay Ginebra San Miguel taking on Talk ‘N Text.

Amid the hype and pageantry of an unprecedented inaugural, the PBA Philippine Cup unfolds this afternoon with two blockbuster games that have drawn wild interests from opposite spectrum of sports – the basketball planet and the boxing world.

Newcomers Blackwater Elite and Kia Sorento clash at 3 p.m. following the 1:30 p.m. opening ceremony, while Ginebra and Talk ‘N Text tangle at 5:15 p.m.

Kept under wraps by organizers, the curtain-raising event will reportedly feature a mystery guest speaker, a tribute to the Gilas Pilipinas team which saw action in the FIBA World Cup in Spain and the Incheon Asian Games in South Korea, and an elegantly choreographed parade of teams and muses.

Speeches will also come from PBA commissioner Chito Salud and league chairman Patrick Gregorio of Talk ‘N Text, the man who envisioned an opening grander than anything the PBA has ever done before.

The Elite will be handled by former PBA star Leo Isaac, while the Sorento will come out bobbing and weaving under the direction of eight-division world boxing champion Manny Pacquiao, the team’s playing-coach.

Calling the shots from the Kia bench in the short time Pacquiao will be reliving his sandlot days in General Santos City is former PBA player and coach Glenn Capacio.

Freddie Roach, Pacquiao’s longtime trainer, will be on hand not to educate his ward on the x’s and o’s of the game but to make sure no harm comes his way – not a sprained finger or a twisted ankle – ahead of his light welterweight fight with American Chris Algieri late next month in Macau.

Pacquiao, understandably because of his size, likes to play the point guard position and it will be of great amusement to see if he would have as much success handling a full-press as he had putting away the likes of Erik Morales, Marco Antonio Barrera, Ricky Hatton, Antonio Margarito and Oscar dela Hoya.

Blackwater defeated Kia, 88-77, in a preseason game in Binan, Laguna early this month, with Pacquiao, who checked in at 9:45 in the second quarter, logging a point, a rebound and two turnovers in 10 ½ minutes.

When the final bell rings for that opening game, the Kings, under Jeffrey Cariaso, and the Tropang Texters, now steered by eight-time PBA champion Jong Uichico, who took over from Norman Black during the off-season, take the floor for what could be a preview of how far either team will go this conference.

This marks the first time Uichico will coach against the team he led to two PBA championships in 2006 and 2008. before joining the Meralco Bolts a couple of years later as an assistant to Ryan Gregorio.

Guard James Forrester has been reactivated by Ginebra and will join recent acquisition Joseph Yeo and holdovers Mark Caguioa, Greg Slaughter, LA Tenorio, Japeth Aguilar, JJ Helterbrand, Chris Ellis and Mac Baracael.

Talk ‘N Text, on the other hand, has placed star playmaker Jimmy Alapag on the reserve list to give him more time to rest after Gilas’ gruelling international schedule. TNT remains a force to reckon with nonetheless with Jayson Castro, Larry Fonacier, Kelly Williams, Ranidel de Ocampo, Danny Seigle and latest addition Jay Washington.

Grand Slam winner San Mig Super Coffee, now to be known as the Purefoods Star Hotshots, will not see action until Wednesday when they face the Alaska Aces at the Smart Araneta Coliseum, kicking off their bid to win five straight championships and come within one title of matching the longstanding record of the Crispa Redmanizers, who won six consecutive during the league’s fledgling years in the 70s.

The 12 teams play a single elimination round. The top two advance to the best-of-7 semifinals. The 3rd to 10th teams move to the quarterfinals while the 11th and 12th ballclubs are eliminated.

Quarterfinal pairings will be as follow: 3rd vs 10th, 4th vs 9th, 5th vs 8th and 6th vs 7th. As reward for their higher elimination round finish, the 3rd to 6th teams will have twice-to- beat advantage in the quarters.

The four winners then play crossover knockout matches to pick the two teams that will battle the seeded pair in the semis. The Finals, similarly, is a best-of-7 affair.