We’re almost a month into the PBA On Tour and things have gotten interesting. There have been different venues, more opportunities for lesser-known players to shine, and even coaches turned players.
Such is the nature of a long offseason, where experimentation on the end of the PBA and its teams has led to this… a prolonged exhibition series. The 2023 FIBA Basketball World Cup is still months away and with college preseason tournaments set to end soon, it soon might be slim pickings in terms of basketball games. It would be unfair to say the PBA On Tour has no bearing since the term may only apply when considering title stakes, which are non-existent in this format.
Of course, teams have been able to tour various venues (hence the “On Tour”) beyond the usual Smart-Araneta Coliseum and the MOA Arena, but there have been some gains, especially on the players’ side, that stand to be useful for PBA Season 48.
As of this writing, only the Magnolia Chicken Timplados Hotshots and the Rain or Shine Elastopainters remain undefeated in the PBA On Tour. Much of that has come as the Hotshots and the Elastopainters have been without some of their usual starters and main contributors. In their absence, a few players have made their presence felt and made their respective cases for more playing time once the season begins.
Magnolia’s James Laput has been a revelation in the past five games, averaging a double-double (11.4 points and 12.0 rebounds). Never mind that he’s been mostly playing against bench players and those trying to stick with a PBA roster; coaches will respect the effort players put out regardless of the stakes. And Laput has certainly caught the attention of the Hotshots coaching staff and then some.
On Rain or Shine’s side, Mac Belo has had a revival of sorts. Injuries, poor recovery, and the lack of opportunities have derailed what was once a promising start to the UAAP Season 78 Finals MVP’s PBA career. A trade from the Meralco Bolts provided Belo with a change of scenery and he is slowly working his way back to form. Thankfully, time is on the three-time PBA All-Star’s side as the next season is still more than three months away.
Undefeated teams aside, the North Port Batang Pier should be more than pleased with Arvin Tolentino’s play in the PBA On Tour. Fresh off a gold-medal winning campaign with Gilas Pilipinas in the 2023 SEA Games in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Tolentino looks poised to lead the Batang Pier…. While his shooting percentages have been a sight for sore eyes, North Port must be happy with his aggressiveness (likely coming from his Gilas pool snub) and would rather that the two-time PBA champion leaves all his misses in the PBA On Tour.
There are more success stories in the PBA On Tour and there likely will be even more by the time the offseason event ends. The league was also gracious enough to allow draft prospects to suit up for PBA teams so they can get a feel of the league this early. As to whether they will be drafted by the teams they played for remains to be seen.
When PBA Season 48 kicks off on October 15, some of these players could be with different teams. Factors such as the PBA draft, trades, and even injuries (as unfortunate as it may be) could factor into the equation. Besides, there’s also the Maharlika Pilipinas Basketball League (MPBL), which has more leagues and is emerging as the PBA’s biggest threat given their regional format.
At the end of the day, the PBA On Tour should be here to stay. Future editions may look different, but it’s a land of opportunity for players and prospects hoping to put their names out there.
On the surface, there really is nothing to play for in the PBA On Tour unlike the conferences in the season itself. However, those playing are currently making the most out of the oncourt opportunities and have something to prove, and who knows, maybe their efforts will work into their favor and that of their teams months from now.