By Michael Angelo S. Murillo, Senior Reporter
PLAYERS who performed well in the lone Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) tournament last season will be spotlighted in awarding ceremonies later this month.
Set for Jan. 17, the virtual awards proceedings serve to honor the players for their efforts in helping the league salvage a season, which was seemingly lost because of the coronavirus pandemic.
The awards take the place of the annual Leo Awards which happens at the beginning of every PBA season.
“The players sacrificed in the bubble, being away from their families and all, to give PBA fans what they wanted. And credit to them because they gave their all every game and did not hold back while cooperating with the league in what it wanted to accomplish,” said PBA Commissioner Willie Marcial of the significance of the awards.
The league restarted its pandemic-hit Season 45 in October in a bubble setting at Clark City in Angeles, Pampanga, which lasted until early December with the Barangay Ginebra San Miguel Kings crowned as Philippine Cup champions.
In the bubble, participants were holed up in a controlled environment in Clark for the duration of the tournament, following strict health and safety protocols to guard against the spread of the coronavirus.
It hit some rough patches, including “positive scares,” but the league was able to survive them and finish the All-Filipino tournament.
But since the PBA only had one conference instead of the traditional three last season, the league deemed it fit to not hand out a most valuable player award. In its place is the PBA Best Player of the Conference honor.
For the top individual award, six players are in the running, namely Stanley Pringle of champion Barangay Ginebra, Ray Parks Jr. and Roger Pogoy of runners-up TNT Tropang Giga, Matthew Wright and Calvin Abueva of the Phoenix Super LPG Fuel Masters, and league top-scorer CJ Perez of the Terrafirma Dyip.
Mr. Parks leads in the statistical points (SPs), a key criterion in determining the winner, with 38.2 SPs on the strength of solid averages of 22.5 points, 8.1 rebounds, 3.1 assists, and 1.3 steals per game throughout the tournament.
Mr. Abueva (37.1) is second with Mr. Perez (35.7) at third. Mr. Wright (35.65) is at fourth, while Mr. Pogoy is fifth (35.64).
While not in the top five in SPs, Mr. Pringle (34.8) got a boost after helping lead the Kings to the title.
Factoring as well in determining the winner are the votes from the media, players and the PBA office. Voting began on Jan. 5 and will last until Jan. 11.
Like the MVP award, no Rookie of the Year will be given. Instead, the Outstanding Rookie award is up for grabs.
Vying for Outstanding Rookie are Barangay Ginebra’s Arvin Tolentino, Aaron Black of the Meralco Bolts, Terrafirma’s Roosevelt Adams, Barkley Ebona of the Alaska Aces, and Magnolia Hotshots Pambansang Manok’s Aris Dionisio.
For the Most Improved Player, in contention are Phoenix’s Justine Chua and Jason Perkins, Barangay Ginebra’s Prince Caperal, Rain or Shine’s Javee Mocon, Raul Soyud of NLEX, and Meralco-veteran Reynel Hugnatan.
Meanwhile, in consideration for for the Samboy Lim Sportsmanship Award are Messrs. Abueva and Perez, Barangay Ginebra’s Scottie Thompson, Kevin Alas of NLEX, and Rain or Shine’s Gabe Norwood.
An Outstanding/Elite Five, temporarily replacing the Mythical Five selection, will also be handed out, but there will be no Mythical Second Team and All-Defensive Teams awards to be given.