Starting tomorrow for the next eight days, the Smart Bro-PBA Philippine Cup best-of-7 semifinals will be played alternately through Games 1 to 4, with Alaska facing Globalport on Jan. 4 for the opener and defending champion San Miguel Beer taking on Rain or Shine on Jan. 5.
Both games kick off at 7 p.m. at the Mall of Asia Arena.
The official schedule takes a break after Jan. 11, the fourth game of the series between the Beermen and the Elasto Painters set at the Smart Araneta Coliseum, presumably so the PBA can make arrangements for the Finals in the event any team has scored a sweep.
The everyday timetable guarantees cutthroat competition throughout the semis, with the margin for error slim and euphoria over victory ephemeral, except if it is for a fourth win.
It also is expected to take its toll to some degree on the men who will be officiating the games.
As hectic as the Final Four format is for the ballclubs in terms of the game proper, practice, adjustments, walk through, viewing, weights training and therapy, with players getting barely 24 hours of recovery time and coaches catching just a few slices of sleep before getting back on their feet and returning to the war room to plot and strategize, the rigors of the daily semifinal grind will present a huge challenge for the referees.
Like pitchers asked to throw every other day in the World Series , the refs, especially those in the upper tier, will be summoned to the pressure-packed atmosphere on regular basis to deliver for 48 minutes or more top calibre calls and high-grade decisions.
That would be tough.
That is why the PBA is taking steps to more or less avert – in the future – a repetition of the controversial final eight seconds of the Globalport-Barangay Ginebra San Miguel knockout game in the playoffs last Dec. 27, as well as other officiating incidents.
Two apparent violations committed by Globalport’s Stanley Pringle went uncalled in overtime, triggering a verbal storm from Ginebra coach Tim Cone after the Batang Pier ousted the Kings, 84-83.
As difficult as it is to completely do away with missed calls as it is eradicating players’ errors and coaches’ failure to call crucial timeouts or make timely substitutions, the PBA has been called upon by certain sectors to do something about them.
PBA commissioner Chito Narvasa acknowledges the need and says the league is in the process of putting up a long-term program that will address a number of officiating issues, including sanctions on erring officials, and not just immediate concerns for this particular semifinal series.
“We need to institute policies regarding disciplinary measures for refs so in the future we can avoid subjective rulings,” said Narvasa, who suspended two game officials for the rest of the conference over the Pringle incident.
“We have to base any disciplinary measure on certain rules.”
Narvasa also bared the PBA is coming up with a “development and educational program” for the referees to enhance their technical knowledge and communication skills, among others.
“We also need to look after the refs, not demoralize them,” he said.