The PBA will finally resume its postponed Philippine Cup on Oct. 11, seven months after its first and only game last March.
Players would have to adjust big time though, since the environment inside the bubble in Clark, Pampanga is on a whole different level.
One of the few changes they have to take into consideration is the lack of physical crowd or their respective fans.
Be it at Araneta Coliseum in Quezon City or at Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay, and even out-of-town games, PBA fans have flooded games while showing their own gimmicks in cheering their favorite teams.
As what Rain or Shine big man Beau Belga said, the fans have always been part of the PBA community. To compensate, the league have set up NBA-esque virtual fanboards at the Angeles University Foundation gymnasium.
That said, Belga has his own thoughts for the audience-free setup in PBA’s new normal.
“Actually, ako malungkot ako e,” he said in ESPN’s Sports Page program. “Malungkot ako dahil wala nang fans ‘yung Ginebra.”
His roommate Ryan Arana backed him up saying: Wala na raw siyang babarilin ng shotgun.
The 33-year-old bruiser is known for his gun-like gestures pointed to the crowd as a way of silencing them from loud boos and distractions. Every time he hits a jumper or a three-pointer, Belga makes sure to fire away those bullets.
“Ang iniisip ko nga kapag kalaban namin Ginebra, baka mag-sit out na lang ako,” Belga jested.
Things will be challenging on Ginebra’s end since their legion of fans won’t be physically present to shout the classic chant of “Gi-ne-bra! “Gi-ne-bra! Gi-ne-bra!” after a comeback run or in garbage time.
While all of these were said in jest, Belga pointed out the actual adjustments they have to make once the games begin — from physical conditioning, mental awareness and team chemistry among others.
“Hindi kami sanay na maglaro ng tatlong beses sa isang linggo ‘pag nag-resume na ‘yung laro. Ngayon talaga, very much needed namin ‘yung pahinga kapag ka every after game para maka-recover for the next game,” said Belga.
Arana echoed Belga’s sentiments, adding that players have to be extra cautious in workouts and actual games in the bubble.
“Kailangan mo talaga paghandaan kasi injury ‘yung first na kalaban mo rito,” said the 37-year-old Araña. “Once na ma-injury ka na medyo grabe, [kapag] lumabas ka, hindi ka na pwede bumalik e.”