MANILA, Philippines -- Coming off a long hiatus, PBA players were expected to show some rust when they returned to action in the Philippine Cup.
While there were signs that players are still working themselves into game shape, commissioner Willie Marcial was still satisfied with the quality of games played over the past two days, especially with the show of physicality and intensity from the PBA stars.
"Akala nga natin, aalalay sila," said Marcial. "Hindi eh. Banggaan ng banggaan. Banggaan, duma-dive."
Most of the PBA teams have not played since late last year. Meralco and Ginebra were last in action during the PBA Governors' Cup finals in January, while San Miguel and Magnolia played in the first game of the PBA Philippine Cup in March.
But the suspension of all PBA activities in March due to the COVID-19 pandemic kept most of the other teams from playing, and it was not until early October that they finally got to run 5-on-5 scrimmages.
The lack of timing and poor shooting is understandable, said Marcial.
"Medyo nawawala pa rin sa timing, 'yung mga pasa… may kaunting timing pa, kaunti na lang game shape," he said.
The hustle, however, is always there, and for that Marcial is thankful.
"Kita mo 'yung bangaan, walang umaalalay eh," he said. "Ito talagang ano eh, pisikalan. So maganda, 'yung sinasabi nilang aalalay, 'di ko nakikitang aalalay."
"So ganoon, walang alalay. Kaya nagpapasalamat naman ako sa mga players na all out na nilalaro nila, pati sa coaches," he added.
There are some negative effects. Marcial revealed that at least two players have already gotten MRIs for injuries suffered, another understandable development given the lack of preparation time. Three players have also been summoned after being called for flagrant fouls.
Marcial warned that even in the unprecedented circumstances of a "bubble" set-up, players are still liable for fines and suspensions if warranted.
"Tingnan natin. Depende sa ginawa (ng player)," said Marcial when asked about possible penalties for the players that he summoned. "Kung nanuntok ka ba 'di ba kita sususpendehin? Kung nanakit ka ng sobra, so depende."
"Tingnan natin. So hindi ako magsasabi ng suspension, fine. Tingnan natin, depende sa usapan talaga sa mga players," he added.
The players summoned were TNT's Poy Erram, NLEX's JR Quinahan, and Alaska's Rodney Brondial. Both Erram and Quinahan were ejected from their first games of the conference after incurring a flagrant foul and a technical foul.