MANILA, Philippines – Filipino boxer Manny Pacquiao's plan to serve as the player-coach of incoming expansion team KIA Motors can only be good for the Philippine Basketball Association, according to some of the league's top stars.
Pacquiao caused a stir last week when he announced his intention of becoming the playing-coach of KIA, one of the three new teams in the PBA, when the squad makes its debut next season.
Some details are still unclear, including whether or not Pacquiao will be allowed to bypass the Rookie Draft, and fans have been divided on the boxer’s plans. But PBA stars Asi Taulava, LA Tenorio and Japeth Aguilar support his endeavor.
"I think, in a way, it will be good for the league," Taulava told Dyan Castillejo of ABS-CBN News during a break at a recent 3-on-3 tournament. "(It will bring) more marketing value for the PBA, and especially for Manny."
Taulava, who helped propel the Air21 Express to a semi-finals stint in the recently concluded PBA Commissioners Cup, also revealed how he would treat Pacquiao if and when they play against each other.
"I'm not trying to make him mad. I just want to let him play basketball, and not make him mad and start throwing punches," said Taulava.
Tenorio agreed with Taulava, saying Pacquiao's entry into the league is "a good thing for the PBA."
"For sure, a lot of people will watch or are looking forward to watching Manny Pacquiao play in the PBA, and at the same time coach the team," said the Ginebra point guard. "So I think, maganda 'yun for the PBA."
Aguilar, meanwhile, is a big fan of the "Pacman" and will thus treat him with respect during their game.
"If we every play against him, I'm gonna respect him by playing hard against him and his team," said the high-leaping Ginebra forward.
KIA officials have said that Pacquiao will take an active role in forming the team and will have a coaching staff of his choice as well.
"Manny will take a leadership role" in KIA, according to Columbian Autocar Corp. president Ginia Domingo. "We at KIA are just so happy that with our team, Manny is now so close to living his dream of being involved with a professional basketball team as a player and a coach."
Pacquiao associate Eric Pineda, who will likely be the KIA team manager, said the "Pacman" himself will oversee the team’s workouts and wants his team to be the "best conditioned in the PBA."
"Manny expects the players to be as disciplined as he is," Pineda told Joaquin Henson of The Philippine Star. "This means every player will be pushed to the limit, over the norm. He wants a team of no superstars."
Pineda also said Pacquiao’s abilities as a player should not be underestimated.
"He's got game. He's quick and smart," Pineda said. "Just imagine when he hits a three-pointer. The crowd will go crazy."
Basketball is clearly a passion for the 35-year-old Pacquiao, who previously owned – and played for – the MP-Gensan Warriors in the semi-professional league Liga Pilipinas.
The "Pacman" also includes basketball in his training activities ahead of fights. Most recently, Pacquiao did some basketball drills as a cross-training activity ahead of his April 12 showdown against American Timothy Bradley Jr., which he won via unanimous decision. -- With a report from Dyan Castillejo, ABS-CBN News