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Sudden setback

We are, of course, sad that we have another delay, but it is a government order and we have no choice but to follow.

Bea Micaller



BASER Amer of Meralco and other PBA players have to wait before formally resuming their workouts. / Photograph by Rio deluvio for the DAILY TRIBUNE @tribunephl_rio

Suddenly, the return-to-play program that the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) and Games and Amusement Board (GAB) had worked hard for is on the brink of another delay.

With Metro Manila being placed under the modified enhanced community quarantine (MECQ) anew, ranking officials of the PBA and GAB are set to put their heads together to plot a plan that would put professional basketball players back on the court — even just for training and conditioning.

Metro Manila’s revert to the MECQ came as a surprise.

In fact, the rise of coronavirus cases in the past couple of days had alarmed health workers, prompting them to reach out to President Rodrigo Duterte to call for a “timeout” and suggest to put National Capital Region back to enhanced community quarantine.

But after consulting the Department of Health (DoH) and his economic managers late Sunday, the Chief Executive decided to put Metro Manila and other major provinces in Region III and Region IV-A back to MECQ, a status that would bar physical activities even those who observe social distancing and strict health protocols.

This development is a major blow for the PBA.

MECQ will be effective on Tuesday and is supposed to end on 18 August.

PBA commissioner Willie Marcial already declared that they are set to resume their training and conditioning sessions after getting the green light from the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) on the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases through a joint administrative order (JAO) charted by the DoH, GAB and Philippine Sports Commission last 27 July.

The only thing that the league is waiting for is the results of the swab testing on all players and members of the coaching staff to make sure that the return-to-play program will be safe and free from the deadly pandemic that already has breached the 100,000-case barrier.

Now that Metro Manila is back to MECQ, Marcial stressed that they have to devise another way to stick to their original timeline and restart their virus-devastated 45th season around September.

“We will talk to GAB if we could hold team practices outside Manila so we can still push through with the original timeline,” Marcial told Daily Tribune in a telephone conversation.

“But that’s just another option. At this point, nothing is certain.”

Marcial said if the IATF and GAB will not allow them to conduct their training outside Metro Manila or in any low-risk areas, they have no choice but to abandon their return-to-play program and start from scratch anew.

“If that happens, we will have to postpone testing and, subsequently, the practices,” Marcial said.

“We are, of course, sad that we have another delay, but it is a government order and we have no choice but to follow.”

Marcial admitted that the National Basketball Association (NBA) offers a very viable program.

Based on the NBA’s “bubble concept” all teams are confined in a highly restricted environment where everybody from players to coaches, team staff, media and other league personnel have to undergo swab testing and would play under strict health and safety protocols.

The setup, however, costs $150 million — or roughly P7.3 billion — as the league has to shoulder the accommodation, food and other logistical expenses without earning anything in gate receipts.

“It is impossible because we will be needing at least three basketball courts and all the facilities which I think we don’t have,” Marcial said, adding that he remains optimistic that the league will be able to hold its games this year despite the pandemic.

“Of course, I am still optimistic, but we really have to be ready for anything.”



Lakers bury Nuggets 3-1 to close in on NBA Finals




LeBron James of the Los Angeles Lakers shoots the ball against the Denver Nuggets during the match in Game 4 of the Western Conference Finals. (AFP)

Anthony Davis posted 34 points while LeBron James added 26 points as the Los Angeles Lakers held off the gritty Denver Nuggets, 114-108, on Friday (Manila time) in Game 4 of the Western Conference Finals.

The Lakers buried the Nuggets 3-1 in the series to close in to a trip back to the NBA Finals since winning it all in 2010 – the last time the storied franchise held the crown behind Kobe Bryant.

Game 5 is on Sunday (Manila time).

James grabbed nine rebounds and dished out eight assists for the Lakers. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope got 13 points, Dwight Howard pulled down 11 boards and had 12 points for Los Angeles.

Paul Millsap’s pair of free throws cut Denver’s deficit to 112-108 with 27 seconds remaining in the game. Davis iced the game, sinking both his free throws with 21.4 left as Jamal Murray missed his three-point attempt in the Nuggets’ last possession.

Murray finished with 32 points for the Nuggets, who found themselves in a very familiar situation after being pushed on the brink by Utah and the LA Clippers only to pull off a couple of historic series comebacks.

Murray, who shot 12-of-20 from the field, added eight assists, Jerami Grant got 17 while Nikola Jokic struggled with five fouls to finish with 16 points and seven rebounds.

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From zero to Herro

Agence France-Presse



TYLER Herro erupts for 37 points to lift the Miami Heat to a 112-109 win over the Boston Celtics. AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

MIAMI (AFP) — Rising star Tyler Herro scored a career high 37 points and Jimmy Butler chipped in 24 as the Miami Heat seized command of their Eastern Conference final series with a 112-109 win on Wednesday.

The 20-year-old rookie Herro made five of 10 threes as Miami took a 3-1 lead in the best-of-seven series in the NBA’s quarantine bubble in Orlando, Florida.

“It is a good win for us. I feel good we are up 3-1 but we still have a lot of work to do,” Herro said.

“We put a lot of effort into preparing for Game 4 and we got it done.”

Herro’s point total is the second most in a playoff game for a player 20 or younger behind only Magic Johnson who had 42.

The win moved them to within one victory of an NBA finals berth, which they will try to secure in Game 5 on Friday.

“Not too many people get an opportunity to make it this far in the playoffs and be in a game like this, but for him it’s another day in the office,” said Butler of Herro.

“He’s just going to keep playing basketball the right way.”

Goran Dragic had 22 points, and Bam Adebayo added 20 points and 12 rebounds for Miami, who rebounded from just their second loss of the postseason in Game 3.

Jayson Tatum scored a team high 28 points, all coming in the second half, and Jaylen Brown had 21 for Boston, which was looking to win consecutive playoff games for the first time since the start of their second-round series against the Toronto Raptors.

Kemba Walker scored 20 points, Gordon Hayward had 14 and Marcus Smart finished with 10 points and 11 assists.

The Celtics turned the ball over 19 times in the game.

“We’ve got to do a better job of handling the ball and taking care of it,” said coach Brad Stevens.

Miami went on a 10-4 run at the end of the first half after Hayward hit a pair of free throws to tie the score 40-40 with 3:38 left in the second.

“Just trying to get a rhythm going early,” said Herro.

“Once you see a couple shots go down, the rest of the game is easier for you. Tonight was definitely a good night.”

Herro nailed a three pointer with just over four minutes left in the fourth quarter to give Miami a 98-90 lead.

Brown made a three pointer and Smart dropped in a layup to get the Celtics within three, but Dragic and Butler each made baskets to pad Miami’s lead.

Dragic responded from beyond the arc and Herro added a layup to put Miami up by nine with 56 seconds left in regulation.

Boston got within three again on a Brown three-pointer with 16 seconds to go, but free throws by Herro and Butler sealed the victory.

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PBA bubble gets green light

Bea Micaller



The resumption of the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) 45th season is finally a go.

PBA chairman Ricky Vargas on Thursday announced that they have already secured a provisional authority from the Inter Agency Task Force on the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) that will effectively allow them to restart their aborted season.

Vargas, who sat down with ranking IATF executives together with PBA commissioner Willie Marcial, said they have already secured the confidence of the government through the help of Bases Conversion and Development Authority chief Vince Dizon, who played a key role in holding the games inside the Clark Freeport Zone using a bubble concept.

“This is a happy event,” said Vargas, who has good relationship with Dizon after serving as president of the Philippine Olympic Committee during the country’s buildup for its hosting of the 30th Southeast Asian Games last year.

“We are happy to announce that, through the help of Sec. Dizon, we have secured the provisional approval of the IATF.”

The PBA had already ironed out all the kinks in its bubble plan.

The league would house around 350 delegates composed of players, coaches and team officials from 12 teams at the Quest Hotel inside Clark Freeport Zone.

Games would be held at the Angeles University Foundation gymnasium starting 11 October, but delegates would start entering the bubble on 28 and 29 September.

But now that the IATF finally issued its green light, the PBA will formally become the first league in the country to open amid the threat of the coronavirus pandemic.

Dizon, who is also the deputy chief implementer of the national COVID-19 task force, explained that the PBA was given provisional authority because its health measures are strict and stringent than that of the Joint Administrative Order (JAO) group, which is composed of the Philippine Sports Commission, Department of Health and Games and Amusement Board.

“The current issue here is that the protocols stated in JAO are different from the protocols set by the PBA for the bubble,” Dizon said.

“We just need to amend the protocols and with the provisional approval, we now have the authority to begin the bubble.”

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Herro drops 37 as Heat push East Finals lead to 3-1





Tyler Herro waxed-hot with 37 points to lead Miami to a 112-109 win over the Boston Celtics in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Finals on Thursday (Manila time) as the Heat inched closer to their first NBA championship appearance since 2014.

The rookie went 14-of-21 from the field including 5-of-10 treys for Miami, which bounced back from a Game 3 defeat for a 3-1 series advantage. Jimmy Butler had 24 points and nine rebounds, Goran Dragic finished with 22 points and Bam Adebayo had 20 points and pulled down 12 rebounds for Boston.

Game 5 is on Saturday (Manila time).

Jayson Tatum led the Celtics with 28 points and nine rebounds, Jaylen Brown had 21 points while Kemba Walker finished with 20. Gordon Hayward got 14 points for Boston.

Miami went on a 10-4 run at the end of the first half after Hayward hit a pair of free throws to tie the score 40-40 with 3:38 left in the second.

In the second half, Herro nailed a three pointer with just over four minutes left in the fourth quarter to give Miami a 98-90 lead.

Brown made a three pointer and Smart dropped in a layup to get the Celtics within three, but Dragic and Butler each made baskets to pad Miami’s lead.

Dragic responded from beyond the arc and Herro added a layup to put Miami up by nine with 56 seconds left in regulation.

Boston got within three again on a Brown three-pointer with 16 seconds to go, but free throws by Herro and Butler sealed the victory.


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Murray keeps Nuggets afloat

I just wanted to see them have a lot of fun today.

Agence France-Presse



JAMAL Murray fires 28 points to lead the Denver Nuggets to a 114-106 win over the Los Angeles Lakers. / Garrett Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images/Agence france-presse

MIAMI (AFP) — Jamal Murray scored 28 points as the Denver Nuggets held off a ferocious late fightback from the Los Angeles Lakers to roar back into contention in the Western Conference finals series on Tuesday.

Murray nailed two crucial late three-pointers in the closing minutes as Denver held on for a 114-106 victory in Game 3 to reduce the Lakers’ lead to 2-1 in their best-of-seven series.

But the Nuggets — who looked in complete control for long periods of the contest — were given a mighty scare by the Lakers in a thrilling fourth-quarter battle.

The Lakers had trailed by 20 points with just over 10 minutes remaining but whittled away the Denver lead to just three points with 3:53 left on the clock.

But just as it looked as if LeBron James and Anthony Davis were poised to complete a remarkable comeback, Murray regrouped to take the game away from the Lakers.

The 23-year-old Canadian’s three-pointer from 26 feet gave Denver a seven-point advantage at 106-99 and he then provided the assist for Paul Millsap to make it 108-99.

With less than a minute on the clock, Murray struck the dagger blow with a 29-foot three-point jumper to make it 111-99 and effectively seal victory.

Denver coach Michael Malone said his team — which had suffered an agonizing buzzer-beater defeat in Game 2 on Sunday — was determined not to go 3-0 down in the series.

The Nuggets have already overturned 3-1 series deficits en route to the Western Conference finals.

“I had no doubt we were going to show up tonight,” Malone said.

“We have won six straight elimination games. Everybody always has us packing our bags and leaving, but we’re not ready to go. They’re a very resilient group and they have proved that time and time again.”

Asked about his late flourish, Murray said he had set out to lead by example.

“That’s my whole energy, my whole approach to the game, not getting down if I miss a couple of shots,” Murray said.

“I’m just trying to be aggressive but the most important part is the energy I bring when I’m talking to my teammates, being a vocal leader, getting up and down and pushing everybody so they tend to follow. I just wanted to see them have a lot of fun today.”

The Lakers, meanwhile, were left reflecting on an uneven display which ultimately left James and Davis with too much to do.

James led the scoring with a triple double comprised of 30 points, 10 rebounds and 11 assists, with six turnovers. Davis had 27 points, with Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (12) and Kyle Kuzma (11) the only other Lakers players to crack double figures.

Murray, who also had 12 assists, was backed with 26 points from Jerami Grant while Nikola Jokic weighed in with 22 points, 10 rebounds and five assists.

“You put yourself in an 18-point hole, it’s tough to climb out of that,” Lakers coach Frank Vogel said.

“I thought Denver played with great energy throughout the game. We didn’t match it early; we matched it late. They’re a great basketball team so credit it to them for the win. They played a really good basketball game.”

“We were not as sharp as we could have been on both ends of the floor. We were playing at a high level, but were a little bit off in the first half.”

“But I liked the spirit that the guys competed with down the stretch to try and make it a game.”

Game 4 takes place on Thursday.

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Thompson repays Altas

Bea Micaller



Scottie Thompson played the role of an ambassador when Frankie Lim decided to step down as head coach of University of Perpetual Help System Dalta in the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA).

Speaking in the latest edition of The Athletes Tribune, Thompson said the owners of Perpetual sought his help to convince his players to stay in the wake of Lim’s sudden resignation.

“The owners talked to me and asked me if I can speak to the players and convince them to stay,” said Thompson, the Barangay Ginebra swingman who is regarded as one of the most successful alumni of Perpetual.

“They worry that the players might transfer to other school due to what happened.”

In an interview with Daily Tribune, Lim said his contract was supposed to be effective until November, but was suspended last July as he started missing his paychecks.

He quit, leaving behind a good run in Season 94 with Prince Eze emerging as Most Valuable Players.

Thompson said he is repaying Perpetual’s trust in him by helping it in keeping the team intact.

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Simon rings final buzzer

Bea Micaller



Peter June Simon formally announced his retirement, putting an end to a colorful 17-year career that saw him winning eight titles in the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA).

In a social media post, the 40-year-old veteran expressed gratitude, saying that he didn’t expect that somebody like him would make it to the PBA despite being left unsigned after being drafted with the 43rd pick in the 2001 Rookie Draft.

He brought his talent to the Metropolitan Basketball Association before seeing action in the Philippine Basketball League until finally finding his way to the PBA.

“I did not expect that a lanky and small boy from Makilala, North Cotabato will make it to the PBA,” Simon said in a lengthy farewell message that came a couple of days after Daily Tribune broke the report that Magnolia left him in the free agency.

“It’s heartbreaking, but I think this is a perfect time to bid the league goodbye.”

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NBA, Olympics on collision course

The goal for us next season is to play a standard season.

Agence France-Presse



League commissioner Adam Silver says next NBA season won’t happen until 2021. / Getty Images/Getty Images for CNN/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

LOS ANGELES (AFP) — NBA commissioner Adam Silver said Tuesday the 2020-2021 season would probably not start until next year due to ongoing uncertainty surrounding the coronavirus pandemic.

Speaking during a panel discussion on CNN, Silver said the league hoped next season would see a full 82-game schedule with teams playing before fans inside their home arenas.

But the NBA supremo said for that to happen, the start of the season would need to be pushed back from December to January.

“My best guess is even though it’ll be the 2020-21 season, that the season won’t start until 2021,” said Silver, who based his viewpoint on feedback from Anthony Fauci, the head of the National Institute of Allergies and Infectious Diseases.

“We said the earliest we would start is Christmas of this year. But the more I’m learning and listening to Dr. Fauci this morning, I continue to believe we’re going to be better off going into January. The goal for us next season is to play a standard season.”

The NBA halted its 2019-2020 season in March as COVID-19 sent sports in North America grinding to a standstill.

The league restarted the season inside a secure “bubble” in Orlando, Florida in July, with teams based at a single location.

If the league does not start until January, it means the climax of the NBA season would almost certainly clash with the rescheduled Tokyo Olympics, due to take place from 23 July 2021.

Silver indicated that the scheduling clash would likely see a US team stripped of top talent at the Olympics.

“It would be tough for us to make a decision in January based on the Olympics happening on schedule when that is so unclear,” Silver said.

“I just add that there are a lot of great US players. We may be up against a scenario where the top 15 NBA players aren’t competing in the Olympics. But other great American players are competing.”

Silver’s comments came as the United States registered its 200,000th death from COVID-19, which has also infected more than 6.8 million Americans.

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Phoenix includes Abueva in roster for PBA bubble

Bea Micaller



Phoenix Super LPG is ready to gamble on Calvin Abueva when the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) Philippine Cup resumes on 9 October.

Team manager Paolo Bugia said they have included the fiery forward in their 15-man roster despite having no assurance that he would be reinstated to see action the PBA bubble in Clark Freeport Zone in Pampanga.

Abueva already completed all requirements for his reinstatement, but PBA commissioner Willie Marcial has yet to formally lift his indefinite suspension that has been dragging for more than a year.

“We’re definitely putting him on the roster with the hopes of bringing him there, but we’re hopeful that commissioner, before the opening on 9 October, will get him reinstated,” Bugia said in a telephone interview.

“We’re taking that risk and we’re optimistic because it’s been a long time coming and we’ve seen the changes in Calvin both on and off the court. Hopefully, the commissioner will reconsider his reinstatement.”

Bugia said Abueva is worth the roster spot.

“I think based on the rules of the league, once we decided not to reinstate Calvin, we cannot bring in another player,” Bugia said.

“So, we will have to live with it, but we’re talking the risk because I think he’s worth it.”

Even with Abueva staying suspended, the Fuel Masters still have a loaded frontcourt in Jason Perkins, JC Intal, Jake Pascual, Alex Mallari, Justin Chua and Dave Marcelo.

“As of now, we will stick with the current team because it’s a short-term plan,” Bugia said.

“But if he does get reinstated, that’s going to be a huge factor for us.”

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