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PBA makes NAS return

PHOTOGRAPH COURTESY OF SBP PSC chairman Richard ‘Dickie’ Bachmann is ready to welcome the PBA at the Ninoy Aquino Stadium. Also shown in this file photo are SBP president Al Panlilio (right) and Erika Dy (left).

The Philippine Basketball Association will be holding its games at the Ninoy Aquino Stadium for the first time in 13 years.

Based on the schedule that the league released on Thursday, the government-owned NAS is among the venues that will host the Philippine Cup games aside from the Philsports Arena, Mall of Asia Arena, Smart Araneta Coliseum and Caloocan Sports Complex.

Originally built in the 1950s but renovated and named after the late Sen. Benigno Aquino Jr. in 1989, the NAS had hosted a lot of major local and international tournaments as well as collegiate events during its prime in the 1980s and 1990s.

Although it underwent another facelift when the country hosted the 30th Southeast Asian Games in 2019, the most impressive changes happened last year when it served as one of the practice venues for the FIBA Basketball World Cup.

As a sign of gratitude, the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas donated the World Cup wooden floor to the Philippine Sports Commission, which it installed at the NAS.

The last time the PBA held its games at NAS was on 2 July 2010 in which Barangay Ginebra routed Rain or Shine, 115-88, while San Miguel Beer defeated BMeg, 88-83, to bag the last outright semifinal berth of the Fiesta Conference.

PBA commissioner Willie Marcial said they are glad to return to NAS and, hopefully, they could also play at the nearby Rizal Memorial Coliseum. After all, the incumbent PSC chairman is Richard “Dickie” Bachmann, who used to serve as member of the PBA board of governors.

“I was there at the Ninoy Aquino Stadium talking with PSC chairman Bachmann,” said Marcial, who set seven playdates at the NAS, including a blockbuster game between Meralco and TNT Tropang Giga on 7 April.

“We looked around it and it was impressive. I hope the refurbishment of Rizal Memorial Coliseum will be done so that we can have a match between San Miguel and Meralco.”

If ever the games at the RMC pushes through, he will ask the Beermen and the Bolts to wear retro competition uniforms to add a tinge of nostalgia into the affair.

“I will ask those teams to wear retro jerseys. Chairman already said ‘okay,’” Marcial said.

“We might have a game here in Rizal this season because they will add a new flooring and goal. But for sure, we will be playing at Ninoy.”

Meanwhile, teams that were either ushered to the exit door or fell short of making a deep run to the playoffs of the Commissioner’s Cup will have a chance to make an early impression in the Philippine Cup that will open on 28 February at the Ynares Center in Antipolo City.

NorthPort, which ended up at No. 6 at the end of the elimination round of the previous conference before getting eliminated in the playoffs by Barangay Ginebra, will have an opportunity to strike back as it faces a rebuilding NLEX squad in the main game of the scheduled double header at 7:30 p.m.

Prior to that, Terrafirma and Converge clash in the other game at 4:30 p.m.

Two-time Most Valuable Player James Yap and Rey Nambatac will have an opportunity to showcase their skills with new team, Blackwater, on Friday when the Bossing take on Meralco in the first game at 4:30 p.m. at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

In the second game at 7:30 p.m., Rain or Shine, which won six of its last seven games last conference to make the playoffs, battles a depleted TNT team that is also parading a new player in Barkley Ebona. WITH REY JOBLE

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