The 40th PBA season rolls along as barely a week will pass between the final game of the Philippine Cup and the Commissioner’s Cup, which is slated to begin on January 27. The tournament will feature imports with a height limit of 6-9 for the top eight teams of the All-Filipino conference as well as reinforcements of unlimited height for the previous conference’s bottom four.
Defending champions Purefoods Star Hotshots will parade Marqus Blakely for the fourth straight year. He is on interim as they await Daniel Orton, who is currently campaigning for the Sichuan Blue Whales at the Chinese Basketball Association. Also returning for another tour of duty is last year’s Commissioner’s Cup best import Richard Howell of the Talk ‘n Text Tropang Texters.
Another balik-import is Michael Dunigan of the Barangay Ginebra San Miguel. He previously played for the Air21 Express in 2013. He averaged 23.9 points, 15.4 rebounds, 3.3 assists, and 2.4 blocks in 15 games for the Express.
One of the most recognizable imports this conference is the NLEX Road Warriors’ Al Thornton. A first round draft pick by the Los Angeles Clippers in 2007, he played at the NBA for six seasons, compiling averages of 11.9 points and 4.2 rebounds.
Officially measured at 7-2 3/4, Puerto Rican Peter John Ramos is the tallest in this year’s batch. Then 19 years old, he played one season at the NBA, seeing action for the Washington Wizards in six games in 2004-05
Others who had NBA experience include Solomon Alabi of the Barako Bull Energy and Arinze Onuaku of recently crowned Philippine Cup champions San Miguel Beermen. Completing the cast are CJ Leslie (GlobalPort Batang Pier), Rick Jackson (Rain or Shine Elasto Painters), DJ Covington (Alaska Aces), Josh Davis (Meralco), and Chris Charles (Blackwater Elite).
Unlike the Philippine Cup, only eight teams will advance after the single round robin eliminations. The first and second seeds will have a twice-to-beat advantage in the quarterfinals, while the four middle squads will scuffle in a best-of-three series. Winners will then advance to the best-of-five semifinals with the two victors there battling it out for the championship in the race-to-four-wins finals.
Can Purefoods defend their crown or will another team hoist the trophy at the end of the conference? Will Howell win another best import award? Will the handicap given to the bottom four squads level the playing field or will the dominant powers continue to lord it over?
How will Talk ‘n Text cope with the retirement of Jimmy Alapag? Can Dunigan lead the Barangay to the promised land or will San Miguel make it two in a row?
These questions will be answered when the Commissioner’s Cup begin next Tuesday as opening day games pit GlobalPort against Kia and Ginebra versus Meralco.