Season of change | Inquirer Sports

There will be a lot of changes when the Philippine Basketball Association opens its 44th season on Sunday. One thing remains constant: Barangay Ginebra is still the league’s most popular squad.

And in a bid to get some sort of a momentum rolling off a massive opening-day revelry, the PBA has tasked the Gin Kings to kick off the Philippine Cup against the TNT KaTropa—after the crowd-favorites enter the court with former Miss Universe Pia Wurtzbach.

The biggest change this year could be the league embarking on its longest season.

“It could span for 13 or 14 months,” commissioner Willie Marcial said during a presser at Conrad Hotel in Pasay on Tuesday. “This would be a first time for the PBA.”

The new season is looking at an expanded schedule to accommodate the final Fiba window and a possible Philippine stint in the basketball World Cup during the first half of the year. The country’s hosting of the Southeast Asian Games, meanwhile, will also potentially squeeze itself into the league’s busy schedule.

Wurtzbach is one of the celebrity muses who will parade with the teams on opening day at the 55,000-seater Philippine Arena in Bocaue, Bulacan.

Fellow beauty queens Aya Fernandez (NorthPort), Kylie Verzosa (San Miguel Beer) and Michele Gumabao (Blackwater) will also join the parade. Volleyball’s most popular star, Alyssa Valdez, will march alongside NLEX, while Olympian Jasmine Alkhaldi is set to join Gumabao with the Elite. Up-and-coming actresses Klea Pineda and Yam Concepcion will represent Alaska and Phoenix while Sharon Cuneta, one of Philippine cinema’s biggest stars, is Magnolia’s muse.

TNT, Columbian, Meralco, and Rain or Shine have yet to reveal their selections.

It will be a season of change in the PBA.

Marcial, on his second season as commissioner, said that the league will implement three tweaks to its rulebook in an effort to bolster the overall quality of the games.

First, goaltending will now be reviewable throughout the match. Second, traveling guidelines will mirror that of Fiba. Lastly, coaches will now be allowed to sue for time verbally.

“It’s to improve and to hasten the games,” Marcial told the Inquirer. “We want to match the international style of play.”

Four games are slated in the provinces with the league also set to mount overseas games.

“Before the PBA opens the new season, the past year’s top individual achievers will be honored in the Leo Awards.

Amid the sea of change, there will be a return to old ways. The annual All-Star showcase will revert to a single-location format. It will be held in Calasiao, Pangasinan, from March 29 to 31.

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