As intriguing as Dubai, El Nido and other areas may be, the PBA might still find it relatively easier to resume a shortened 2020 season if it holds the planned bubble at the Smart Araneta Coliseum in Quezon City, according to two head coaches.
In their appearance on Wednesday's episode of Sports Page, coaches Yeng Guiao of NLEX and Caloy Garcia of Rain or Shine said The Big Dome could arguably offer more logistical advantages over other locations that presented themselves as options for the league.
"You do not have to go abroad or you do not have to go out of town. Even the facilities of the coveror is still within Metro Manila. And then logistically, I think it can still be viable," Guiao said.
One thing that will work for the PBA if it holds the bubble in Araneta, according to Guiao, is the fact that the league won't have to worry about providing practice venues since teams already have their own facilities here in Metro Manila.
In terms of keeping the players housed in one area after practices, Guiao said the league could opt to situate the players in Novotel Manila located beside the coliseum.
"So you're actually still maintaining your bubble. And then maglalaro ka roon sa Araneta in the evening or in the next day," he said. "Ako gusto ko sa Clark. Kaya lang kapag dinala natin sa Clark 'yan, [the problem] is going to be practice venues dahil ilan lang ang maayos na court sa Angeles or Clark area. But here in Metro Manila, you put us in one hotel and meron na kaming sariling venue."
"It's a good idea. I hope the commissioner can look at that kasi tama naman, everybody stays in one place but then they can practice in their own venues. I think that's a good idea," said Garcia. "The practice venues are important. You have 12 teams. Kung isang venue lang ang pagp-practican, kahit bigyan mong isang oras kulang 'yon kasi you have to sanitize every after practice."
At the moment, commissioner Willie Marcial has a bevy of options on his plate. Aside from Araneta and the Coca-Cola Arena in Dubai, suitors from Baguio, Batangas, Bulacan, Pampanga and Palawan also reached out to express interest over the planned bubble.
But finding the ideal location is only part of the bigger battle, as everyone involved will also have to deal with the mental toll the bubble will take on each person.
"If you have a bubble, you can see what the players are doing. Nakabantay sila. But the concern there also is 'yung iba doon, thinking about their families. May mga homesick diyan kapag matagal na nags-stay. That's one thing we also have to look at," said Garcia.
"Ang unang-una na kailangan talaga rito is a change of behavior, and the change of behavior starts with that mental discipline. Kaya 'yun muna ang pinupukpok namin [ang protocols] kasi kapag andiyan na sa isip mo, susunod na 'yung katawan mo. Kaya I think habang wala pa 'yung bakuna, our best weapon is our adherence and discipline to follow the protocol," Guiao explained.
This is why the PBA should put the bubble tournament, if started at around October, at just around two months, Guiao offered.
"You have to compress the schedule. Kasi ang hirap na hindi mo ico-compress 'yung schedule and you have to be in a bubble for three, four months - masisiraan ng ulo 'yung mga players, lalo na 'yung mga coaches," he said.
"I think there's going to be a mental health issue kung masyadong matagal. So you have to compress the league. 'Yung sinabi ni commissioner na kailangan tayo maglaro every day. I think that has to happen. Ang mangyayari, every team might have to play three times a week."
Guiao continued by saying the PBA will have to stick to a two-month timeline in order to bring teams back to their families by the time the holidays roll around.
"If we're planning to play in October, dapat after siguro ng one or two weeks, we should be able to practice as a group. Kasi kung maglalaro tayo ng October tapos sa October or end of September tayo makakapag-ensayo as a group, napaka-ikli ng preparation to be able to compete," he said. "And then ang tingin ko kung magb-bubble tayo, we only have up to the middle of December. Kaya before the middle of December, you have to release them from the bubble because Pasko na 'yan, family time na 'yan. Ang hirap ng December nasa bubble ka pa rin."
Whatever route the PBA plans to take, Garcia and Guiao said all teams will buy in since everyone is already raring to jump back into action.
"I think everybody wants to play kahit one conference lang. I don't see any team or anybody saying, 'Huwag muna this conference. Ituloy na lang natin next year.' One reason also to have the conference is we also have the drafting. How can you draft if wala namang conference? That's another problem also," said Garcia. "I'm just being positive that we're going to have this conference."
"You can feel that the players want to play. My players want to play. We want to coach. We want to be relevant at this point. Marami kang naririnig diyan na discouraging or negative, pero kailangan kasi nating labanan. We cannot just give up. Sayang ang opportunity," Guiao added.
The PBA Board of Governors is set to deliberate next week after commissioner Marcial consolidates all plans and prepares a presentation, according to chairman Ricky Vargas.
"I'm in close contact with the commissioner and I asked the commissioner to submit a plan. And when he's ready, we are going to call for a board meeting to specifically discuss this," he said.
"The first purpose of the PBA is really entertainment. It's a sport that is loved by many Filipinos. Maybe it's about time let's give back to the fans. This is a very, very concrete, real-life example of giving back to the fans."