MANILA, Philippines -- Commissioner Willie Marcial warned Japan teams to "watch out" for PBA squads but later admitted that the East Asia Super League (EASL) will be a tough challenge for the Filipino clubs that will compete.
The pioneering league opens on October 12, with eight of the top teams in various leagues in Asia battling in a home-and-away format. At stake is a top prize of $1 million.
Set to represent the PBA are the finalists of the ongoing Philippine Cup. Also competing are the top two teams in the Korean Basketball League (Anyang KGC and Seoul SK Knights), the top two teams in Japan's B.League (Utsunomiya Brex and Ryukyu Golden Kings), P. League+ champions Taipei Fubon Braves, and Hong Kong's Bay Area Dragons.
"Our teams are strong. I'm expecting our B.League teams to win," chairman Shinji Shimada said at Tuesday's press conference and official draw at the Shangri-La at The Fort.
"The PBA is so excited to join this league," said Marcial, for his part. "We will showcase Asian basketball here in the EASL… Japan, watch out, okay."
Marcial later made it clear that he was joking and even took photos with his Japanese counterpart after the press conference. He also acknowledged that despite his challenge to their opponents, PBA teams will likely be in for a tough time in the EASL.
"Mabigat. Mabigat ang laban natin sa EASL," he said, noting that all teams can play two imports at the same time.
"May tsansa tayo. Pero sinasabi ko na sa inyo, mabigat ang labanan sa EASL."
The EASL will coincide with the Commissioner's Cup, and Marcial said that the teams that will represent the PBA will be allowed to hire a second import. The league has also made adjustments to their schedule to allow the two teams to compete.
"Kung may maglalaro sa home and away, kunyari 'yung champion team natin, one week natin hindi papalaruin 'yun," he said. "Kasi aalis ng Monday, practice ng Tuesday sa bansa, sa ibang bansa, laro ng Wednesday, balik ng Thursday, makaka-practice pa ng Friday."
"So isang buong linggo, hindi natin sila bibigyan ng laro. Nag-adjust na tayo, maga-adjust tayo sa schedule ng EASL," he added.
PBA Chairman Ricky Vargas previously said that they want to prove that their league remains the best in Asia through the EASL.
PBA teams had already competed in EASL invitational events, which launched in 2017 with The Super 8. NLEX and Blackwater competed in the second edition of the event in July 2018. In 2019, Blackwater, San Miguel Beer, and TNT took part in the expanded tournament called the Terrific 12.
No PBA team has made the final of an EASL competition yet, although NLEX reached the semifinals of the 2018 Super 8, and San Miguel was also a semifinalist in the 2019 edition of the Terrific 12.