MANILA, Philippines -- PBA commissioner Willie Marcial is confident that basketball fans are in for a treat when Barangay Ginebra and Meralco face off in the finals of the Governors' Cup.
It will be the first PBA Finals series to be held in front of fans since the 2019 edition of the same conference -- incidentally, that also featured the Gin Kings going up against the Bolts.
"Chapter 4 nitong epic saga na mangyayari sa atin," said Marcial during Monday's press conference at Novotel in Quezon City. "Two coaches, both champion coaches, Grand Slam coaches, great teams."
"Ang matutuwa ay mga fans. Three years na tayo na hindi nakakapag-live ng finals since 2019, ngayon lang ulit makakapanood ng mga fans," he added. "Hindi lang makakapanood ng live -- Ginebra-Meralco pa ang mapapanood nila."
It will be the fourth time in the last five seasons that the Gin Kings and the Bolts have met in the finals of the Governors' Cup, with Ginebra winning each time.
Yet even with the Gin Kings dominating the rivalry, the championship series have been quite competitive, and Marcial believes that will still be true for the fourth installment.
"Baka magtanong kayo sa akin, palagay ko, long series ito," he predicted.
Neither Barangay Ginebra coach Tim Cone nor Meralco coach Norman Black offered their own prediction, only saying that they expect another hard-fought series from two teams that know each other very well.
"I'm not really sure how long the series will go. I think we're prepared for anything at this point. I'm hoping it's very competitive, especially from our end," said Black.
The Meralco coach has been adamant that their match-up isn't much of a rivalry, given that the Bolts have yet to beat the Gin Kings. That, he said, is the goal this time around.
"Our goal is just to win the championship, that's really the goal. Doesn't really matter how many games. But more importantly for me, like I said, we just have to stay healthy," he said. "That's gonna be very, very important."
"I just need to keep everybody healthy, keep them on the court, keep them available every single game, which will give us a good chance of winning," he added.
Cone, for his part, maintained that they are not thinking of their past success against the Bolts. The Gin Kings had beaten Meralco in five games in the 2019 Governors' Cup finals, but much has changed for both squads since then.
Most significantly, Meralco will be parading a new import this time around in Tony Bishop, after Allen Durham starred for them in the past three finals series. Ginebra, of course, will still be led by Justin Brownlee but have added new players to their rotation -- most notably, former Meralco guard Nards Pinto who joined them in free agency.
"As a team we don't really think about what's happened in the past. We're trying to stay focused on what's right now," said Cone.
"We do know that Meralco's gonna be greatly motivated, and they always are. They're incredibly coached and they just seem to evolve and get better every year," he added.
"I think that each series just elevates and gets harder and tougher, and more exciting. So, this is what we're looking forward to. We're looking forward to a really tough, exciting series. Again, the past doesn't mean anything, it's all about right now and moving forward."
Game 1 of the best-of-seven series is on Wednesday at the Araneta Coliseum.