by: Bong Paredes
Feature Image by: Businessworld Online
There are now countless columns and articles on how the SBP should address our recent (FIBA World Cup) and current (FIBA Asia Women’s Cup) struggles in the sport of basketball. I even fell into a rabbit hole of YouTube videos pontificating about the same topic. I’ve seen a lot of good and not so good insights but they were all missing one thing. A holistic and comprehensive plan and strategies that will take us to basketball relevance. When I say “relevance” it means that getting to the second round of the World Cup is not surprising anymore and qualifying for the Olympics is commonplace.
The SBP has an unenviable task of putting together a “new program” and in this article I want to outline the short to mid-term plan which in my own interpretation is the next 4 years. Starting with the SEA Games which is just right around the corner, and ending with the 2023 FIBA World Cup where we’re already assured of the spot being one of the host countries alongside Indonesia and Japan.
Close to 100% of our best players are currently in the PBA so together with the SBP, they are currently the biggest stakeholder that benefits or gets to carry the burden of representing us internationally. The PBA has been criticized fairly and unfairly through the years as one of the main reasons we are in this current predicament. But one thing I will give them credit for is the fact that they bent over backwards to accommodate and support the Gilas program regardless of the 10-day preparation time given to our World Cup team a couple of months ago
Moving forward, here are the top 3 things I believe the PBA should change:
- Get rid of the 3 Conference Format
In a recent article on Spin, the PBA is considering going back to the 2 conference format from a few years ago which will be a significant improvement. But, I think we should do what the other leagues are doing which is to just have 1 season per year with breaks in between. We get to see the FIBA Calendar ahead of time anyways so why not make the schedule according to the qualifying windows like other countries do? Keep in mind that we are not the only country struggling with the current home and away format but our year round PBA calendar by far is the worst equipped for obvious reasons.
- Have 2 imports without any height restrictions
The PBA is no stranger to this since they are one of the pioneers in the pro circuit that put this into practice since its inception in the late seventies. I also understand why they moved away from it because we wanted to showcase the locals a bit more (and some budgetary reasons too for sure). At the same time, in this day and age our need to get acclimated playing with and against top level talent far outweighs the need to showcase our local talent more. Will it hurt the local player’s ability to gain more in-game experience and hamper their ability to improve?
That is a reasonable cause for concern, but our South East Asian neighbors are showing us that having 2 imports without height restrictions in their local leagues and the ABL certainly raised their level of play in the last 10 years at an astounding rate. A point further strengthened by coach Tim Cone going with half his PBA team’s powerhouse roster with the rest comprised of SMB and TNT’s best players for the upcoming SEA games and dropping all of our top amateurs. It does not mean Coach Tim does not have faith in our college guys, it just means that he cannot risk lack of experience (albeit superior talent than our ASEAN neighbors for now) come into play against veteran players if and when we play a close game here at home. Coach Tim could not have been clearer when he said that “we cannot lose this one” in a piece on PBA.PH yesterday.
- Adopt all in-game FIBA rules (10 minute quarters and officiating)
This will be met with massive resistance from the PBA team owners due to one main thing… 10 vs 12 minute quarters. Cutting down the number of conferences from 3 to 1 on top of reducing the playing minutes from 48 to 40 will be a hard sell for sure. But we have to admit that with our players getting used to an extra 2 minutes per quarter hurts us more than it helps us. I’m not even looking at the FIBA World Cup anymore. Just revisit Gilas’ games in the last 5 years, one thing we are consistent with was and still is… slow starts.
Even in games that we have won we do one of two things, come back from behind after a slow start if the team we are playing is really strong. In the case of a team that we were supposed to beat like Qatar and Kazakhstan, we hold them off just enough to protect our lead or do the same come from behind thing when we play tough teams. Why, because that’s how the PBA games go. The players and coaches aren’t even conscious of it, Filipino teams always have extended dry spells and part of it has to do with us getting used to 2 more minutes per quarter to put together a nice run that FIBA’s format won’t give us.
The officiating piece is a tougher one because our referees just like our players would need to unlearn some of their habits for the benefit of our players. PBA defenses and how they are called and not called stymies our ability to create flow in the FIBA game and a lot of it we cannot control. Our players as explained by coach Chot Reyes (in the video above) as early as 2014 when they were preparing for that year’s World Cup said that unlike in the PBA, FIBA referees are quick to call a foul if we grab and hold. A habit that is tolerated more in the PBA. Our players are very capable defenders but they play in the league that lets them “cheat” on defense by putting less premium on staying in front of your man and more on making sure you impede their ability to blow by you by putting a hand on them.
I’m sure there are more that I wasn’t able to include here but in the grand scheme of things I believe that these changes, if they are even being considered at all will help our PBA formed GILAS teams have a better showing if not more wins in FIBA play in the next 4 years.