FOR the second time in the last six years, the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) takes the lid off the season-opening Philippine Cup at the Philippine Arena in Bocaue, Bulacan this Sunday with Ginebra and Talk N’ Text clashing in the day’s only game.
The contest between the league’s most popular ballclub and a team hoping to become relevant again after a forgettable showing last season begins shortly after a exciting opening rites highlighted by the giving of the LEO Awards to deserving players.
It marks the second time since 2014 that the Asia’s first pro league will stage its opening ceremonies at the world’s largest indoor arena before an expected huge crowd.
In other developments:
--Philippine Olympic Committee president Ricky Vargas was retained as chairman for the 44th season.
--Alaska governor Dickie Bachmann and Phoenix governor Raymond Zorilla were also retained as vice chairman and treasurer, respectively.
--Former Miss Universe Pia Wurtzbach, volleyball star Alyssa Valdez and movie star Sharon Cuneta lead the lineup of muses for the opening rites.
--Chris Tiu of Rain or Shine has retired after six seasons with the Elasto Painters.
It’s going to be a very special afternoon for June Mar Fajardo of San Miguel Beer, who is poised to clinch his record-setting fifth straight Most Valuable Player award during the LEO Awards.
Fajardo’s closest rival for the award is Stanley Pringle of Globalport.
Curiously, it was also Ginebra and TNT which clashed when the league brought its act for the first time to this cavernous arena with a doubleheader on October 19, 2014.
The other game pitted expansion teams Blackwater and Kia (now Columbian) with senator and boxing great Manny Paquiao playing for Kia.
A few days after making their debut on Sunday, the Gin Kings will leave for Guam to play Rain or Shine on Jan. 19, making up for the game that was postponed last October.
Wurtzbach, the 2015 Miss Universe winner, will serve as muse for Ginebra, Valdez for NLEX and Cuneta for Magnolia during the parade of the 10 competing teams.
The other muses are Binibining Pilipinas Globe 2018 Michele Gumabao and national swimmer Jasmine Alkhaldi (Blackwater), Binibining Pilipinas International 2016 Kylie Verzona (San Miguel Beer), Kapamilya talent Yam Concepcion (Phoenix} and Kapuso actress Klea Pineda (Alaska Milk).
Talk N Text, Columbian, Northport and Rain or Shine have no muses yet.
Vargas will serve his third term, following his successful leadership in the 2006-07 season and last year.
“I’m humbled to serve once against the chair of the PBA Board,” Vargas told the audience during a press conference yesterday.
The Texters will play minus Terrence Romeo, whom they shipped to the San Miguel Beer camp in exchange for Brian Heruela and David Semerad and a future first round pick.
In a short Twitter post on Tuesday, Tiu wrote: “My heartfelt gratitude to every person who has been part of my basketball journey!! Most especially to our Lord who makes all things possible. It’s now time to move on. My heart is full. #17 signing off.”
Tiu was picked seventh in the 2012 PBA Rookie Draft.