Hong Kong's Bay Area Dragons to join PBA as guest team

Camille B. Naredo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Mar 21 2022 12:06 PM | Updated as of Mar 21 2022 02:32 PM

MANILA, Philippines -- (UPDATED) The PBA will welcome a guest team for its 47th season, as Hong Kong's Bay Area Dragons will compete in the Governors' Cup later in the year.

The deal was formally announced on Monday morning, with the PBA partnering with the East Asia Super League (EASL) in bringing the Dragons to Asia's first pay-for-play basketball league.

According to PBA commissioner Willie Marcial, the Dragons' entry as a guest team was officially approved by the Board of Governors two weeks ago.

"I am very grateful for the PBA and its support of the EASL, and [for] welcoming of the Bay Area Dragons to the PBA," EASL founder and chief executive Matt Beyer said. "We're honored [that] the PBA [is] willing to host the Dragons, and we're excited for what lies ahead."

The Dragons will be composed of players from mainland China, Hong Kong, and Chinese Taipei, as well as an Asian import and two more foreign players. Beyer said they will tap a "world-famous coach" to call the shots for the team.

The squad was created to represent Greater China in the EASL, which opens its first official season in October and will last until March 2023. 

The team will be based in Metro Manila from August 1, 2022 to March 2023, depending on their performance in the EASL. Aside from competing in the PBA Governors' Cup, the Bay Area Dragons will also play preseason exhibition games in Australia, Europe and North America, and compete in Korea's KBL Cup.

"We will have the team beginning practice in Manila no later than August 1st," said Beyer. "They'll be getting ready, practicing together, getting used to their new environment, and they'll be playing games in a friendly game setting or scrimmages against PBA teams as soon as that's possible to do so."

"They'll be staying at a top hotel and practicing in top facilities," he added. "There's a lot of exciting things on the horizon, just as we get the team together."

Originally, the Bay Area Dragons were known as the Phoenixes, but changed their name as the PBA already features the Phoenix Super LPG Fuel Masters. 

Created with the support of the Hong Kong Basketball Association, the Dragons will have as their general manager Liu Quansheng, best known for his time with the Chinese Basketball Association (CBA).

This marks the first time since the 2004 Fiesta Conference that the PBA will have a foreign guest team. Back then, the league welcomed the UBC Thunderbirds and the U.S. Pro-Am Selection.

"This is a great opportunity for the PBA," said Marcial. "Hindi lang sa income; it's also [for] awareness and additional fans. Maybe the Chinese community will watch the PBA."

"So, it's a big opportunity, and I just want to thank EASL for joining the PBA and the Governors' Cup. It's a plus-factor for the PBA," he added.

The Dragons will be eligible to win the PBA Governors' Cup crown, Marcial also said. 

With them in the fold, the league will have 13 teams in the Governors' Cup, pending the result of the negotiations regarding the sale of the Alaska franchise.

"Same system, same format, and they can be the champions of the Governors' Cup," said Marcial.