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PBA lines up side events to lure fans

Imagine Benjie Paras going one-on-one with Jerry Codiñera.

Or Johnny Abarrientos taking on Olsen Racela.

Or Alvin Patrimonio vs Nelson Asaytono.

Or Vergel Meneses against Kenneth Duremdes.

This dream stuff could become reality if the Philippine Basketball Association pursues its plan to invite legends of Philippine basketball to play against each other in 3-on-3 and 1-on-1 matches as a crowd-drawing sidelight for the 41st season which kicks off on Oct. 18 at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

“For sure, hindi na maiinip ang mga fans and some could be lured back, especially those who want to see their former hardcourt heroes in action anew, kahit sandali lang,” said PBA chairman Robert Non of San Miguel Beer, referring to the back-to-the-future move the league wants to insert in between games on regular playdates.

The PBA board of governors met yesterday and tackled ways and means to buoy up sagging gate receipts and crowd attendance that briefly put a brake on the league’s record-smashing seasons the previous years.

Tried-and-tested attractions like the one-on-one event, which drew heavy turnout when greats Ramon Fernandez and Philip Cezar were kings, are being brought out of the vault to complement novel ideas which the league will come up with.

“We have to continually assess, evaluate and adjust,” said PBA president and CEO Chito Salud. “That is why the board has instructed us to be on the lookout for innovations and solutions to the problems that may arise.”

The PBA experienced a seven percent drop (equivalent to P18 million) in revenues last season, halting a steady rise in gross earnings since the 2010-11 season that culminated in a P248 million take in 2013-14.

During the annual PBA planning session in Tokyo, the league governors identified several factors that contributed to the fall, among them the addition of two expansion teams which diluted the competition, playing in smaller venues, shortened playoff matches, the extra game day a week, and the nearly one-hour break between games.

The board backed up the need of Kia (now Mahindra) and Blackwater to grow in an atmosphere similar to the one that prevailed during the time of Welcoat Paints (Rain or Shine) and Red Bull (Barako Bull), an “incubating” period for the sophomore teams.

Unanimously, the board did away with Tuesday games, reverting to the Wednesdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays playdates.

Saturdays are usually reserved for provincial games.

But should the game be held in Manila during that weekend date, those will be doubleheaders starting at 3 p.m.

“Patay talaga ang Tuesdays and we also have to consider the budget constraints among the fans kaya balik four days a week tayo,” said Non.

PBA commissioner Chito Narvasa, meanwhile, has been asked to confine game venues as much as possible to the Araneta Coliseum and the Mall of Asia Arena.

Asian imports, introduced by previous league chairman Patrick Gregorio of Talk ‘N Text, will make a return in the season-ending Governors’ Cup, while 6-foot-9 has been pegged as the height limit for the mid-season Commissioner’s Cup except for Mahindra and Blackwater, which will both be allowed reinforcements of unlimited height should they land in the bottom two positions after the Philippine Cup.

Coming in higher than 11th or 12th place after the opening conference negates the special concession for the two expansion teams.

In the Governors’ Cup, the four teams with the lowest cumulative records from the previous two conferences will be allowed to field imports as tall as 6-foot-9, while the rest will make do with imports 6-foot-5 or less.

Asian imports are limited to 6-foot-3 or lower.