Liga Pilipinas, another MBA in the making?

There’s a new league in town and is patterned after the defunct Metropolitan Basketball Association (MBA). The Liga Pilipinas is ex-Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) comish Noli Eala’s newest pet project after getting the boot from the pro league (ok I didn’t include his boxing promotions). The league inaugurals will kick off on May 23-25 in the three key cities in Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao, after months of resetting the opening date. So will Liga Pilipinas follow the MBA’s path to instant stardom or die a sudden death after reaching its momentum? Well, we’ll never know for sure. We hope Liga will stay as long as the PBA.

Liga Pilipinas is actually a merger between two minor leagues – the Mindanao Visayas Basketball Association (MVBA) and the National Basketball Conference (NBC). It is owned and operated by Pinoy Basketbol, Inc. (PBI), a member of the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP).

Like the MBA, Liga is a region-based league. Unlike the MBA, however, Liga will work on a tight budget, around P10-12 million per year, less than the cost of maintaining a Philippine Basketball League (PBL) squad. FIBA rules will be enforced and minimum monthly salary for players will be set at P10,000 and maxes out at P20,000, this however, doesn’t include performance bonuses. It could be possible that bonuses are bigger than the player salaries in itself.

Sixteen teams banner the new league � eight each in the south and north. Teams from the north are Taguig, Ilocos Sur, Cavite, Pampanga while Cebu, Iloilo, Mandaue, Cagayan de Oro, Pagadian, Zamboanga, Ozamiz, and Davao banner the south teams. The league will select four to complete the cast of 16 from among teams from Rizal (Rep. Robbie Puno and Gov. Jun Ynares), Batangas (Sen. Ralph Recto), Baguio (Mayor Reinaldo Bautista), Tacloban (Kenneth Uy), General Santos City (Manny Pacquiao), Bacolod City (Dodong Bascon), Surigao del Sur (former Rep. Butch Pichay) and Ormoc.

Those who already have team monickers are the Latinos from Zamboanga (because they’re said to be the only Asian Latin city), the Warriors from Iloilo, the Ni�os from Cebu (for obvious reasons), Cota (fort) from Ozamis, and the Rescuers from Cagayan. If Baguio makes it, they will likely use the monicker the Centennials.

I suggest the other teams name theirs as the Connoisseurs (Pampanga), Miners (Cavite), Thorns (Davao), Vines (Mandaue), Caravans (Laguna), or even the Balisongs (Batangas). I don’t know about the others but maybe you have an idea? Opps you can’t use the old MBA team monickers like the Cebu Gems, Pampanga Dragons, Davao Eagles, Negros Slashers, Batangas Blades because they’re proprietary to the old MBA teams.

The league allows each team to have 14 players (only 12 can play each game) – a minimum of 8 homegrown talents, 2 ex-pros, 1 fil-foreigner (which means they can tap 3 amateurs not from its region). This is good because we could ultimately see the next Jun Simon, Dondon Hontiveros, John Ferriols and Reynel Hugnatan waiting to be discovered from the ranks. This could also mean added exposure for Fil-foreign prospects (if and when they decide to come here) such as 5-9 Jeff Dosado (AIC), 6-5 Jared Dillinger (Hawaii), 6-4 Emel Rowe (Australia), and 5-10 Ryan Wetherell (Southern California) before they make a big jump to the PBA, and perhaps a new lease of life on ex-pros like Nelson Asaytono, EJ Feihl, Jimwell Torion, Stephen Padilla.

The league format will be a hybrid of sorts, a combination of the the point system used in the Euroleague, UEFA, the European and PGA Golf Tours, and the Association of Tennis Professionals. Weekly tournament legs will be held in each of the homecourts of the participating teams, with leg winners declared as leg champions and each get some sort of cash incentives. They also accrue points that will determine placings in the National Championship.

It works like this, after the initial phase wherein each team hosts a weekly tournament, the 12 top finishers (teams with the most number of points) will advance to the playoffs, so much like the NBA. The playoffs will consist of a wildcard stage involving eight teams, four best-of-five quarterfinal series, two best-of-five semifinal series and one best-of-five finals. Funny, it works like the PBA, too.

Unlike the MBA, travelling expenses will not be mammoth. Each home team will host one tournament leg and will not travel constantly during the initial stages of the tournament. The home-and-away format will be only be used during the National championship phase. There will be two conferences per season, each spanning approximately for four months. The league is also coordinating with the Philippine Basketball League and may schedule its games at the end of the PBL conference, making it possible to tap topflight PBL talents into its fold.

According to reports, the games will be shown over the internet on www.ligapilipinas.net (well, don’t try it, it’s still not working) and possibly for ABC-5 (well, they couldn’t get the PBA back). If this league pans out, ABC people will have the last laugh.

I can’t wait for the opening of the games. I admit showing preference for the MBA during its early seasons and have the same excitement for Liga Pilipinas. More basketball means more fun! Are you ready to join the bandwagon?