Games Today (Smart Araneta)
4:15 p.m. – Globalport vs NLEX
7 p.m. – Rain or Shine vs San Miguel Beer
After a mind-blowing visual experience Sunday where everything was stretched to the edge of imagination, from the “sea of humanity” as PBA chairman Patrick Gregorio described the mammoth crowd of more than P52,000 that filled the Philippine Arena during the opening of the PBA 40th season to the rousing reaction to boxing icon Manny Pacquiao making his pro basketball debut and the imposing sight of two giant TV screens and one huge electronic scoreboard serving as backdrop to the playing court, things go back to normal somewhat this afternoon when action resumes at the old, familiar haunt.
The Smart Araneta Coliseum, where gate attendance of 22,000-plus normally sends shivers down the spine and usually merits adjectives like “blockbuster” and “record-setting” in the sports pages, welcomes back its long-time patron with two games in Day 2 of the PBA Philippine Cup.
Cavernous as a description now belongs to another venue, but the title ‘historic’ remains the Big Dome’s sole right.
Globalport, bannered by No. 1 pick overall Stanley Pringle, takes on the NLEX Road Warriors, coached by ex-pro Boyet Fernandez, at 4:15 p.m. while Rain or Shine, with Paul Lee back in harness after a protracted contract squabble during the off-season, faces June Mar Fajardo and San Miguel Beer, now mentored by former PBA rookie of the year Leo Austria.
Neither game boasts off the drawing power of Kia Sorento playing-coach Manny Pacquiao, who led his team to a smashing 80-66 come-from-behind victory over error-saddled Blackwater Elite (29 turnovers), or Barangay Ginebra San Miguel, which spoiled the debut of former Kings coach Jong Uichico on the Talk ‘N Text bench,101-81, but the allure of returning to its roots after a long break to continue celebration of 40 years of existence has its own hold and appeal.
PBA fans situated in the Big City, especially those not from the north, may also be drawn to the Big Dome to check out Pringle, the former Asean Basketball League player from Indonesia, and how his joining forces with Globalport’s rising star Terrence Romeo will pan out.
NLEX, which purchased the Air21 Express franchise reportedly for a R100M, is a dangerous opponent for any team, even more for one that is just about to break in its top acquisition.
A harsh reception awaits the Batang Pier at the hands of Asi Taulava, Rico Villanueva, Mark Cardona, Wynne Arboleda and Aldrech Ramos, with the Road Warriors eager to establish themselves early ahead of their coming battle with the league’s big guns.
Gilas Pilipinas players Lee, Gabe Norwood, Jeff Chan and Beau Belga will be joined by forward JR Quinahan, who is back from a knee injury, but Rain or Shine will be surrendering height disadvantage in the middle against San Miguel, with 6-foot-10 Fajardo much improved after his stint with the national team.
Fajardo had memorable duels with some of Europe’s top centers during the FIBA Basketball World Cup in Spain last month, including one against the Indiana Pacers’ Luis Scola of Argentina, and will wield his newfound confidence with authority against Rain or Shine and its undersized frontline.
ROS coach Yeng Guiao is a master at turning mismatches into their favour, however, and is expected to throw various stuff at Austria, his SMB counterpart, just to see how he will react once the run-and-gun Elasto Painters apply heavy defensive pressure on Fajardo and Beermen scorers Arwind Santos and Marcio Lassiter.
Close to 53,000 people jammed the Iglesia Ni Cristo-owned Philippine Arena in Bocaue, Bulacan two days ago, setting sky-high the bar for inaugural day crowds and yet putting premium on smaller but more intimate venues.
Of the 34 elimination round games lined up from after today to Dec. 9, a total of 22 are to be played at the Big Dome, with playdates set in Lucena City (Oct. 25), Tubod, Lanao del Norte (Nov. 8), Cuneta Astrodome (Nov. 11), Davao City (Nov. 15), Ynares Center Antipolo (Nov. 21), Cagayan de Oro City (Nov. 22), Binan, Laguna (Nov. 23), Ynares Center Antipolo (Nov. 26), Binan, Laguna (Nov. 29), Mall of Asia Arena (Dec. 2), Dipolog City (Dec. 6) and Cuneta Astrodome (Dec. 9).