MANILA, Philippines – The PBA’s best and brightest once again gather in Puerto Princesa, Palawan for the PBA All-Star Week that is keenly awaited for Asi Taulava’s record-setting 13th All-Star Game appearance, Jimmy Alapag’s formal league farewell and the return of the novel North-versus-South battle, among others.
The bulk of the PBA delegation left for the popular tourist city in the western part of the country Wednesday, looking for some fun in a brief break in the PBA Commissioner’s Cup that is heading the homestretch of the elimination round.
Taulava, even with a fever, wouldn’t miss the trip where he’s to make an unprecedented mark, playing a 13th All-Star Game on Sunday, six days after turning 42. At the moment, Fil-Tongan behemoth shares with Alvin Patrimonio the record of most number of participations in the mid-season spectacle.
The All-Star event, hosted by Puerto Princesa for the second time in six years through sponsor NickelAsia, began in earnest yesterday and runs through the next four days with the All-Star Friday and All-Star Sunday as the main highlights at the Puerto Princesa Coliseum.
It’s an affair to be remembered, also featuring the return of the Rookies-Sophomores Blitz Game, the expected tough competitions in the All-Star skills contests, Alapag’s formal retirement and appearances of no less than nine All-Star MVP winners in the North-South duel.
Taulava and Alapag, co-MVP winners in Cebu in 2004, banner the South team along with other ex-MVP winners James Yap (2012), Jeff Chan (2013) and PJ Simon (2008) as they go up against the North team led by Marc Pingris, Jeff Chan, Arwind Santos and Gabe Norwood, who are also former All-Star MVPs.
Gary David, the 2014 MVP, didn’t get enough votes to make the event.
Also in the South cast are Junemar Fajardo, Greg Slaughter, Mark Barroca, Dondon Hontiveros, Cyrus Baguio, Reynel Hugnatan, Joe Devance and Stanley Pringle while completing the North lineup are Mark Caguioa, Justin Melton, Calvin Abueva, Japeth Aguilar, Paul Lee, Terrence Romeo, Jayson Castro, Ranidel de Ocampo and Beau Belga.
Caguioa is missing the game due to an injury, and Ginebra teammate LA Tenorio is likely to be tapped as his replacement.
Also due to a health problem, Hontiveros will miss what could have been his 12th All-Star Game. The PBA isn’t naming a replacement to Hontiveros since the South team has a 13th man in Alapag.
Fajardo failed to make the flight yesterday due to an injury sustained in the San Miguel Beer-Barako Bull game Tuesday night.
“He’ll undergo treatment for the next two days. But the good news is that his ankle injury is not so bad and he’ll likely follow us in Palawan before the All-Star Game. There’s a strong possibility that he can play,” said San Miguel coach Leo Austria, who’s calling the shots for the North team in the All-Star game.
“He’s voted by the fans and I’m sure Junemar also wants to be with them,” Austria added, himself excited seeing Fajardo, Slaughter and Taulava start with Yap and Barroca for the South team under coach Alex Compton.
Voted to start for the North team are Caguioa, Melton, Pingris, Abueva and Aguilar. With Caguioa out, Castro takes over the two-guard starting spot.
They fight for pride and bragging rights in the game playing under the North-versus-South format for the first time in four years. In 2012, it was Veterans versus the RSJs, then the PBA All-Stars versus Gilas Pilipinas in the last two years.
Meanwhile, Barroca, Stanley, Rey Guevarra and Mark Macapagal defend their crowns in the All-Star side events starting at 4 p.m. tomorrow, ushering in the Rookies-Sophomores faceoff at 7 p.m.
Stanley and Guevarra, who shared the slam-dunk title at the Mall of Asia Arena last year, banner an elite cast of ring-jammers including Abueva, Aguilar, Matt Ganuelas, JC Intal, and former winner Chris Ellis.
Barroca goes for a repeat in the Obstacle Challenge against former champ Jonas Villanueva and other aspirants Simon Atkins, LA Tenorio, LA Revilla, RR Garcia, Brian Heruela, Chris Banchero, Pringle, Barroca, Castro and Jeric Fortuna.
Macapagal shoots for an unprecedented sixth three-point shootout diadem against a stellar cast of challengers including Yap, Hontiveros, Tenorio, Santos, Alapag and Chris Tiu.
The PBA board of governors flies to Puerto Princesa tomorrow morning. On Saturday, they convene in a meeting where they’re likely to name the non-PBA individual joining the special committee that will study the restructuring of the league and do the search for the next PBA commissioner.
A jampacked crowd is expected on Friday and Sunday especially as event host NickelAsia is giving away tickets just in exchange for used plastic bottles.
“Grabe ang pila ng mga tao,” said PBA media bureau chief Willie Marcial on the crowd drawn by NickelAsia as it promotes saving the environment.
On Day One of the All-Star event, Taulava, Yap, Santos and Pingris were among All-Star players flown via a private jet to Rio Tuba to mingle with fans and attend tree-planting activities in the mining town.
Read more: http://www.philstar.com/sports/2015/03/04/1429992/pba-all-stars-mingle-fans-puerto-princesa