PBA salary cuts to end as teams resume 'make or break' practices on May 18

Starting next Tuesday, the PBA will be lifting the league-wide 20-percent salary cut as teams are set to resume practice, commissioner Willie Marcial confirmed.

Players, coaches, league officials and staff members had to take lesser pay for almost a month as the league and its teams continued to deal with the COVID-19 crisis.

According to Marcial, the practices pushing through as early as May 18 is a "make-or-break" situation for the league's hopes of starting the 2021 season as soon as possible.

"I talked to the players on Tuesday and I also talked to coaches and team managers on Monday. I told them that the scrimmages will make or break the season," he narrated in Filipino.

"The ball is in their hands if they want this to be successful. Once we're able to do everything without a hitch, maybe we can get the approval to start the season," he continued.

At the same time, sanctions for violators of the league's health and safety protocols will take effect.

"Players use a tracking sheet as a way for the league to find out if anyone went outside their houses," explained Marcial, "If a player left his home, he will need to quarantine for seven days then take an RT-PCR swab test."

"Once we learn that someone went out without the league's permission, that player will be fined P75,000 and will be suspended for 10 days without pay. The punishment for repeat offenders will depend on me," he added.

The fine is another measure to make sure the government-approved scrimmages go on with no problems.

Official clearance from the Games and Amusements Board (GAB) is still needed before teams can begin working out in locations of their choice, but the PBA last Friday had already received the go-signal from the Inter-Agency Task Force to start scrimmaging in areas under general community quarantine (GCQ).

"We're still waiting for the letter of approval from GAB, but in principle, everything is OK with chairman Baham Mitra. We just need a letter to make it official," shared Marcial.

A few teams have already taken COVID-19 tests in preparation for the return to scrimmages. The Meralco Bolts have already been swabbed before this week and can travel to their camp in Ilocos Norte as early as May 15, while teams like NLEX, Rain or Shine, and Blackwater underwent testing Tuesday.

"Everyone has to get tested twice - seven days and two days before the start of training. The first one has to be an RT-PCR swab, but the second test can be an RT-PCR saliva test from the Red Cross," explained the league commissioner.

Batangas - and the three venues the PBA has previously secured - remains a primary option for teams to resume practice. Others, like NLEX and TNT are reportedly heading north to Ilocos Norte or Subic to set up camp.

At the same time, Marcial said teams are ready to pivot back to Metro Manila in the event that the government decides to relax quarantine restrictions in the nation's capital, which remains under modified enhanced community quarantine (MECQ) at least until May 14.

"If they shift NCR to GCQ on May 15, we're not going to be able to hear from them immediately if we send a letter asking if we can practice here in Manila. That will take three to four days," he explained, "So I told teams they can practice in Batangas or elsewhere since we've already gotten the approval to scrimmage and then they can come back to NCR if we're able to get clearance by then."