PBA: Another bubble? Ginebra's Tim Cone says he's on board

Camille B. Naredo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Apr 12 2021 06:58 PM

MANILA, Philippines -- Barangay Ginebra coach Tim Cone is willing to spend another prolonged period in a "bubble," if that's what it takes to get the new PBA season up and running.

Cone and the Gin Kings spent 73 days in the league's bubble in Clark, Pampanga last year, where they won the championship in the PBA All-Filipino Cup.

As of now, the start of the PBA's 46th season remains in question given the current quarantine restrictions in the "NCR Plus." 

Commissioner Willie Marcial is hopeful for a May start. Initial plans had the Ynares Center in Antipolo as the venue for the opening.

However, Marcial also admitted that another "bubble" is still an option for the PBA -- and it is one that Cone welcomes.

"I think the coaches, the players, I think they'll welcome back into the bubble if that's the only recourse we have to start playing again," Cone said during an appearance on "The Chasedown," Saturday.

"The last bubble was difficult, no doubt about it," he also said, citing the toll it took on the players and coaches' mental health and the long days spent away from their families.

"But, you know, we're gonna have to do whatever it takes to get back to playing. So as difficult as it might be, we certainly welcome the chance of going back into the bubble," Cone said.

The PBA's bubble in 2020 was held in Clark, with the delegation billeted at the Quest Hotel, while games were played at the Angeles University Foundation Gym, a few minutes away. There were some hiccups -- a game official and a player returned positive COVID-19 results, although they were eventually deemed false positives.

Still, the bubble was considered a success and treated as a blueprint for other leagues.

Yet Marcial is hesitant to commit to doing it again, and Cone fully understands why.

"From what I heard, it was a real difficult project to put together," said the Ginebra coach.

"I know the opportunity is there, but I know that it's really, truly a last resort for the PBA. Only because it's such a huge, huge undertaking," he also said.

One issue is financial: the PBA spent some P67 million in last season's bubble. Marcial has also expressed his concern about the mental health of the players if they spend another extended period in a bubble away from their families.

What's certain for Cone is that if they do another bubble, it will be better than the first go-around. He noted that in Clark, there were many things "out of your control," which was difficult for the coaches in particular.

"That was such a new experience, and I think all of us coaches would be better at handling the bubble this time around, if given the opportunity," said Cone. "I think that anytime you're gonna do something for the second or third, fourth time, you learn and you progress and you get better."

"So I would assume that the bubble would be more efficient this time around. I think that we'd be smarter on how we do it," he added.

"But again, it is a huge undertaking."

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