source: Alfonso Ramirez | InterAKTV
Dubai’s winter breeze seems to have cooled down the usually fiery Yeng Guiao as he bantered with fellow coaches Junel Baculi and Siot Tanquincen minutes before the briefer to formally raise the curtain on the PBA’s Middle East tour.
Known in Philippine basketball circles as a task master who always sets the sidelines on fire, the Rain or Shine Elasto Painters coach shook the jet-lagged PBA delegation when he said that he so loved playing in this cosmopolitan Persian Gulf city that he agreed to have his charges slotted into a killer, back-to-back game schedule that will start on Thursday evening.
“Excited kaming makapaglaro dito sa Dubai… sa excitement namin, pinili naming dalawang beses kaming maglalaro dito kaya magsasawa kayo sa Rain or Shine,” an unusually jovial Guiao said.
But true to his reputation as a whip-lasher, he added that his team will immediately plunge into practice in the afternoon to shake off the rust that built up overnight during the PBA delegation’s nine-hour flight from Manila to the UAE capital in Abu Dhabi. The group had to travel for two hours over land before they could wash up and take a breather at the Asiana Hotel in downtown Dubai.
“Wala na ‘tong pahinga. They need to be in tip-top shape by game time,” he told InterAKTV.
“Pagkatapos nang presscon, magpa-practice kami. Bukas nang umaga, magpa-practice kami at sa Biyernes ng umaga magpa-practice rin kami. Tinanggap namin ang pagpapahirap para lang mabigyan naming nang kasiyahan ang mga taga-Dubai,” the vice-governor of Pampanga said.
Yet to win a game in the Commissioner’s Cup, the Elasto Painters hope to reverse their fortune and chalk up a win or two to bolster their chances of making it to the next round.
“Mahirap sabihin pero sana pag balik namin sa Pilipinas, 2-2 na kami,” said rookie sensation Paul Lee, who was one of three who represented the players seeing action in the Dubai tour.
The Elasto Painters will go up against the Barako Bull Energy Boosters on Thursday evening and then face the Barangay Ginebra Kings on Friday.
Commissioner Chito Salud was all praises for the cellar-dwellers for agreeing to make the “sacrifice”.
“Last year, nangako kami na babalik kami dito at nandito na naman po ang PBA,” he said at the press briefing.
“Special thanks to the Rain or Shine organization. These two games are not exhibition games… these are regular season games. In a short second conference, napaka-crucial ang every game [and] I want to thank Rain or Shine for agreeing to play back-to-back … kahit sa Pilipinas bihira ang maglaro nang back-to-back. Usually teams play on separate days na may pagitan. Eto dikit, Thursday and Friday maglalaro ang Rain or Shine and that is a big sacrifice for that organization para matuloy lang ang ating Dubai tour,” he said.
The Commissioner’s Cup format has a single round elimination stage with teams playing nine games each. Teams are then seeded based on their win-loss record. The top two teams after the elimination stage will advance to the semi-finals while the next four finishers will play in a quarter-final play-off series with the winners advancing to the four-team semi-finals.
“These are not exhibition games. They’re not here to have fun. These are regular season games of the Commissioner’s Cup and every game is crucial as teams need to win as many games as they can to qualify for the next round,” PBA commissioner Chito Salud said.
Asked why the PBA returned to Dubai despite a foul up in last year’s tour when the local promoter failed to fulfil his financial obligations, commissioner Salud said: “Our mentality in the PBA is to move forward particularly when what is at stake is the welfare of our fans. The PBA was not really damaged by the incident… we learned our lessons that’s why we resolved that when we go back here, we’ll make sure that the safety and security of our players are ensured and I believe that we’re now in safe hands”.
Last year’s tour was marred by the local promoter’s inability to pay their hotel and airline bills which resulted in the abrupt cancellation of the flight booking made for the members of the Talk N Text Tropang Texters. Members of the team who were left stranded at the Dubai International Airport were forced to buy their own tickets and catch separate flights.
“Ang balita namin nakakulong siya. Gusto nga sana naming puntahan.” PBA media bureau chief Willie Marcial told InterAKTV.
The promoter who used to organize basketball tournaments for Filipinos in the UAE was reportedly slapped with a hold departure order following the well-publicized incident and was subsequently penalized by authorities here.
Local organizer Edwin Deang, chairman of the Dubai-based Philippine Expat Basketball Club, said he expects the PBA tour will be a huge hit not only among Filipinos but to other basketball-loving expatriates in the UAE as well.
“The clamour to bring the PBA back to Dubai has been tremendous,” Deang said.
Before closing the briefer, Guiao took the microphone and in jest gave the organizer a “stern” warning.
“Natutuwa ako na despite yung kung anong nangyari, nagpursige ang grupo ni Edwin na maibalik ang PBA at maipakita na maganda naman ang situation dito sa Dubai. Si Edwin kasi Kapampangan din, kaya kapag pumalpak, maski sa Pampanga hindi na makakauwi si Edwin,” he said bringing the house down.