MANILA, Philippines - Business tycoon and sports patron Manny V. Pangilinan wouldn’t waver on his commitment to support Philippine basketball in the aftermath of the disastrous staging of the PLDT’s Last HOME Stand event at the Smart Araneta Coliseum Tuesday night.
“Accept with thanks the kind words, with humility the less than kind. Setback shouldn’t stop us from supporting our Gilas team & Phl basketball,” said Pangilinan on his Twitter account the morning after the event.
“Just issued our apologies and offer to refund. Very disappointed ourselves. But we’re accountable for the event and to our basketball fans,” Pangilinan also tweeted.
The PLDT chairman also posted telephone hotline numbers – 836-5818/8365819/836-5890 – which ticket holders may dial if they wished to avail themselves of ticket refund.
“We wish to apologize to our Filipino basketball fans for the sudden and disappointing turn of events. We ourselves are extremely disappointed by this unexpected development,” said Pangilinan.
“All we wanted was to give our Filipino basketball fans a real treat while at the same time, through this benefit event, help our countrymen who are still recovering from Super Typhoon Yolanda and more recently Typhoon Glenda,” he added.
The ultimate test Gilas Pilipinas had hoped for in its last stand at home before the FIBA World Cup in Spain against a select group of NBA stars ended up in a basketball clinic.
In a hastily called press conference, Pangilinan said he himself was disappointed especially after he was told of the cancellation of the game only hours before the event.
“We dealt substantially with the agents called East West (IGW). They did all the arrangements in respect to this event,” Pangilinan also said.
Curiously, Maria Espaldon of IGW and PLDT HOME executive vice president Ariel Fermin maintained they had never announced a game to be played in print ads and flyers promoting the event.
“It was a charity event. We’re very careful about that,” they insisted despite all the prior pronouncements of Pangilinan and nationall coach Chot Reyes on Twitter and the news reports to hype up the dream match.
Of course, that was the very idea as Espaldon herself would later admit in the same press conference late Tuesday night.
No game was played neither a brief 5-on-5 scrimmage as the event organizer failed to work on a sanction from the National Basketball Association.
Fermin said that the agreement with the event organizer provided for a format involving a basketball clinic followed by a 5-on-5 game between Gilas Pilipinas and the NBA stars. However, PLDT was informed by IGW a few hours before the event that the 5-on-5 game was not given sanction by the NBA.
The same organizing group brought in Kobe Bryant and company in 2011 to play a game with a PBA All-Stars then a match with Gilas Pilipinas. Apparently, they were able to hold these games since the NBA then was in a “lock-out.”
“When we’re planning this event we’re not thinking about the NBA sanction since this was supposed to be a charity event. In the US, they do this without this sanction because they play for charity and for the love of the game,” said Espaldon.
“That’s our belief because that’s what generally happens in the US. But when we talked to them, they said we couldn’t do this without the sanction. When we applied saying that this is just for charity, we proposed it in April this year, they told us that the sanction deadline has passed. We asked for an extension, and they said no,” Espaldon also said.
“That’s the background of this. The relationship now is with the players through their agents. They said they can’t penalize the players since this is for charity and something to be supported by the NBA. But they changed the rules on us every time,” added Espaldon.
Without the sanction, Espaldon said they drew a program of a legitimate clinic to be handled by coach John Lucas and highlighted by a 5-on-5 between Gilas and the NBA stars.
“We had made all the plans to actually have a game. But at the last minute, the players had an emergency meeting and Kyle Lowry claimed he had a call and was worried about his career,” Espaldon said.
“We’re trying to fall within the guidelines. It’s going to be a show, an experience. The players were ready to make a show, but we got a call today, threatening the players of suspension,” Espaldon added. “The players were not worried about the penalties. They were worried about the suspension.”