By REYNALD MAGALLON
PBA Commissioner Willie Marcial has moved the opening of the 48th PBA season to Nov. 5 from its original schedule of Oct. 15 to give the players who will be participating in the Asian Games in Hangzhou, China enough time to recover.
Marcial, who is also the concurrent assistant team manager of the Gilas Pilipinas for the quadrennial meet, said the move would also allow the teams to also better prepare for the Commissioner’s Cup.
“Ibigay natin sa mga player para makapag pahinga at para sa mga teams makapag practice maigi,” said Marcial on Monday, Sept. 11 during the Gilas practice at the PhilSports Arena.
The draft combine scheduled on Tuesday and Wednesday, Sept. 12 and 13 will go on as scheduled at the Gatorade Hoops Center in Mandaluyong as well as the PBA Rookie draft on Sunday, Sept. 17 at the Market! Market! In Taguig City.
Even with the adjustment of the opening day, the first conference is still expected to end as scheduled in February.
Marcial added that the league had some leeway in adjusting its schedule since it will no longer have to accommodate the inclusion of Bay Area Dragons which already announced its pull out from the PBA.
Meantime, a total of 128 players have themselves available for the Rookie Draft.
Among those who submitted their applications in the final week leading to the Sept. 10 deadline were Ricci Rivero, Schonny Winston, Zav Lucero, Brent Paraiso, Keith Datu, Brandon Bates, Luis Villegas, Ken Tuflin, Stephen Holt, Kim Aurin, Raphael Cu, Fran Yu, Henry Galinato, Dominick Fajardo, Kemark Carino, Sherwin Concepcion, James Kwekuteye, Lorenzo Navarro, among others.
The huge number of applicants is a new PBA record, surpassing the previous mark of 97 for the Season 46 draft. The 31 Fil-foreign applicants also went down as all-time high.
Chance of the final list being pruned down is possible depending on the outcome of the two-day Draft Combine set on Sept. 12 and 13 at the Hoops Gatorade Center.
Terrafirma will select first on draft day followed by Blackwater.
Rain or Shine takes the next two picks, NorthPort comes next, Phoenix, NLEX, and Meralco.
Converge picks consecutively at nos. 9 and 10, followed by NorthPort and Terrafirma.