Photo credit: PBA Gallery/official website
By Kriel Ibarrola
The wait is finally over. After months of uncertainty, Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) returns for its 46th season. The 2021 PBA Philippine Cup is finally upon us. The wait was certainly long, but no doubt it will only make this season even much sweeter.
After all, we got a lot of juicy storylines to watch out for, as our favorite Pinoy teams and players get back to action. So, ano pang hinihintay natin? Here are some of the best narratives we can look forward to in the upcoming PBA campaign.
The Kraken and Berto Bigote are back!
The injury bug hit a lot of PBA players last season inside the bubble in Clark, Pampanga. However, it was superstars June Mar Fajardo of the San Miguel Beermen and NorthPort Batang Pier’s Robert Bolick that were hit the hardest. The pair of crowd favorites suffered serious injuries that took quite some time to heal.
Fajardo fractured his tibia back in February last year, while Bolick has also been out of commission for almost a year due to an ACL tear. They even missed out on that unprecedented PBA bubble entirely.
But of course, the comeback is always stronger than the setback. These two worked extremely hard to get back in game shape, and are raring to pick up where they left off.
Before that unfortunate injury, Fajardo was enjoying another dominating season and even won his sixth PBA MVP plum in the process. Bolick, on the other hand, was in the midst of an impressive rookie year and was slowly establishing himself as one of the best guards in the league.
For sure, SMB and NorthPort fans can’t wait to see these two back on the court. Do you think they’ll have the same impact after missing such a long time?
Abueva takes on his old team (and close pal)
While the PBA will open its season with a thrilling triple-header on Friday, it’s the primetime match-up on Saturday that carries the most intrigue. We’re talking about the Magnolia Hotshots Pambansang Manok against the Phoenix LPG Fuel Masters matchup.
What makes this game a must watch, you say? Two words: Calvin Abueva.
In case you’re not caught up, Abueva was traded during the offseason from Phoenix to Magnolia. Yup, he’s expected to be Magnolia’s newest star, especially now that Marc Pingris and PJ Simon have both retired.
First game pa lang, reunion na agad! Calvin will be taking on his former teammates to open the season. The Beast, of course, was amazing during his two-year stay with the Fuel Masters. While he’s had his highs, the 7-time All-Star also endured the lowest of his lows in that span. Abueva was the subject of that absurdly long suspension following his unsavory behaviour back in 2019. After insistent public demand, he was finally pardoned by the league last season and was allowed to return to action.
The notorious troublemaker redeemed himself big time, and was truly a changed man after that. He was noticeably on his best behaviour both on and off the court and gave Phoenix a huge boost since his return.
Now, Magnolia is hoping to get the same energy from the one-time PBA champion.
Aside from expecting “good boy” Calvin, we also can’t wait to see him go head-to-head with his former Alaska teammate and buddy Vic Manuel.
Like Abueva, The Muscleman also changed jerseys in the offseason and joined Phoenix as Calvin’s replacement.
Who do you think will get the upper hand between these two close friends?
Same faces, new places
Hindi lang si Abueva at Manuel ang nagpalit ng teams. There was a lot of movement during the offseason and it will take some time to see familiar players wearing different colors this year.
Rabid Ginebra fans now can’t wait to see the team debut of Christian Standhardinger, whom Ginebra acquired from NorthPort in exchange for Greg Slaughter.
We all saw how amazing the Standhardinger/Stanley Pringle duo played together with Gilas PIlipinas, right? Now, they will get to team up on a daily basis.
The rich even got richer, as SMB also acquired last year’s PBA Rookie of the Year CJ Perez from the Columbian Dyip. While the nature of that trade was indeed as controversial as it gets, the Beermen still got their guy.
It will be thrilling to see how Perez fits in with SMB’s loaded backcourt that includes Chris Ross, Alex Cabagnot, and Terrence Romeo. Grabe, superteam talaga!
We even have under the radar swaps, like Baser Amer going to the Blackwater Elite and Mac Belo reinforcing the Meralco Bolts.
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A new season also means a new set of first -year players. Aside from the traded players, we will also be welcoming fresh meat in the PBA. This season’s draft was indeed loaded with talent from top to bottom.
While players from the special draft are still tied up with the Gilas program, there are still plenty of young studs that will be entering the league.
Joshua Munzon was the first man up, as he was plucked by Dyip. He’s expected to be the team’s new top guy now that Perez is off the squad.
Munzon is a walking bucket, as evidenced by his spectacular showings in 3x3 competitions. Can he bring the same firepower over to the PBA?
We also got highflyers Jamie Malonzo and Calvin Oftana, who both ruled the country’s two collegiate leagues a year ago.
Hinog na kaya sila for the pros? Mikey Williams, Santi Santillan, and Alvin Pasaol all look like they can contribute right away as well. Which rookie are you excited to see the most?
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