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PBA Season 41 to focus on talent, strategy

PHILIPPINE Basketball Association fans can look forward to more exciting games with emphasis given to talent and strategy when the league opens its 41st season on Oct. 18.

“We’re back to playing the game of basketball as we learned it while growing up,” said Commissioner Chito Narvasa.

Bridging the communication gap between the league’s 12 ballclubs and the pool of referees is high on the new commissioner’s list of priorities. Narvasa admitted the gap has become so big, it led to a lot of confusion, and sometimes even confrontation during games.

So his first order of business from the time he took office was to reach out to the teams, particularly the coaches, while he patiently analyzed and tried to understand where the game officials are coming from.

“The trouble has something to do with their training. Coaches and players are trained on the interpretation of the rules while the refs are focused on their specific areas that often leads to non-calls,” Narvasa said.“I’ve been a player and coach but never a referee. So this undertaking is really a learning experience for me,” said Narvasa, who made rounds of the teams during their practice sessions with deputy commissioner Rickie Santos, assistant to the commissioner Pita Dobles, technical officials and referees in tow.

To address the problem, Narvasa, who had coaching stints with Shell and Purefoods in the 1990s, said he instructed the referees to make the calls the way they should be called.

Under the rules, excessive physicality (wrestling), holding, pulling of jersey and shorts and advantage fouls automatically earns a whistle.

“Play the ball and not the man. That’s basically what we’re trying to tell the players,” Narvasa said. “Once everybody gets used to it, games will be fast-paced. The players who perform well and the coach with the brilliant game plan will win in the end.”

Narvasa believes the coaches appreciate the simplified rules.

“At one practice I was taken aback when the coach claimed he was surprised the refs know the right calls,” Narvasa said. “It’s just a matter of understanding each side so that they don’t see each other as an adversary. And we will keep this line of communication open to ensure that officiating remains consistent.”

The new commissioner said he expects the game to stretch a little longer while both parties adjust to the new rules but once adjustments are made, everyone will appreciate the beauty of the game even more.

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