MANILA, Philippines -- The COVID-19 pandemic has made the business of signing reinforcements all the more complex for PBA ball clubs, with NLEX coach Yeng Guiao noting that a team that can get the right import will have an advantage in the coming conference.
The PBA is planning to start a second conference in November, this time with imports, after being limited to just the All-Filipino Conference last year due to the global health crisis.
Guiao, speaking to former PBA Commissioner Noli Eala on "Power and Play," said they are already preparing for the next tournament and are in talks with a few possible imports.
"We're very hopeful, we're very excited na 'yung import na maipasok namin ay tutugma at magiging sagot doon sa mga iba pang kulang sa team, na pwede niyang punuan," said Guiao, whose NLEX squad made it to the quarterfinals of the PBA Philippine Cup.
However, signing reinforcements is more complicated now because of the pandemic. It has been reported that along with a height limit of 6-foot-6, imports will also be required to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
This is on top of the other documents that imports, agents, and teams have to submit not just to the PBA but also to the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF), and even the foreign player's country of origin.
"Meron kaming deadline eh, kung di ako nagkakamali. Dati October 15, ngayon ginawa ng PBA, October 21, to be able to submit… lahat ng documentary requirements ng IATF, ng PBA, and from the place where they will be coming from," Guiao explained.
"So extra ano 'yan, extra effort on the part of teams, agents, and players, to be able to put together these documentary requirements," he added.
Thus, it will be crucial for teams to find an import who will fit with their team immediately -- one who can play with them for the entire conference.
In past years, it wasn't uncommon for PBA teams to change imports in the middle of their campaign; Guiao himself changed his reinforcement in the 2019 PBA Governors' Cup, the last time that the league allowed imports before the pandemic.
Now, that isn't the case.
"Isa pang advantage ngayon, kung makakuha ka ng import is, kung alam mong magaling na, at alam mong maganda ang ugali, at alam mong magfi-fit sa team mo, ang laking advantage mo," Guiao said.
"Kasi 'pag nagpalit ka midway, ay nako, sakit ng ulo na naman 'yun. You will have to go through the, again, the documentary requirements," he added.
These are the factors that NLEX management is keeping in mind when talking to imports, and Guiao said they are leaning towards signing a player they have already hired before.
"Siguro, I can give a hint now. Alam mo ang kinakausap namin, 'yung nakita na namin eh, 'yung subok na namin eh, nakita mo ang ugali, nakita mo ang laro," he said. "Kesa doon sa magsusugal ka, doon sa import na sinasabing magaling, sinasabing mabait naman, pero hindi mo pa nasusubukan."
"Kasi nag-iiba 'yun eh pagdating dito eh. So, maybe as a hint, we are really looking at imports who've already played here, and we know what they're capable of. Para less 'yung risk, less 'yung gamble," he added.
In recent seasons, NLEX tapped Olu Ashaolu, Manny Harris, and Aaron Fuller as reinforcements.