MANILA, Philippines -- PBA players will need to find another way to celebrate after great plays as their usual gestures -- such as high fives and fist bumps -- are discouraged by the league's strict protocols.
Commissioner Willie Marcial confirmed Tuesday that they have asked the players to avoid these traditional celebratory gestures.
"Pagsasabihan muna natin na iwasan," he said. "Pero alam mo naman, 'pag may buzzer-beater, mae-excite. Pipilitin natin na 'wag nilang gawin."
"Wala namang penalties," he assured, "Pero nasa protocol 'yan. Susundin natin 'yan."
These are just a few of the protocols that players will have to follow inside the league's bubble in Clark, Pampanga, where the PBA will resume the All-Filipino Cup after a six-month break due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Players were tested before entering the bubble, and tested again upon their arrival at the Quest Hotel on Monday and Tuesday. They are required to isolate for 24 to 48 hours until they return a negative result.
They will have to check some of their other habits, including wiping the ball on their jerseys.
Moreover, the players who are on the bench will have to wear masks.
"'Yun ang binigay na protocol sa amin. Ang wala lang mask 'yung sampung naglalaro sa court at tatlong referees," Marcial explained.
"So labing tatlong tao lang ang walang mask. Lahat naka-mask. 'Yun ang binigay na protocol, susundin po natin," he added.
The chief executive of the Bases and Conversion Development Authority, Vince Dizon, noted that these protocols are even stricter than those being implemented inside the NBA's bubble at the Walt Disney World Complex in Orlando, Florida.
There, teams are not discouraged from their usual celebrations and family members have been allowed to enter since the second round of the playoffs. The PBA, in contrast, will not allow the players' relatives to enter Clark at any point of the conference.
"Walang allowed na pamilya na sumama kasi kahit papaano may risk 'yun. Sa NBA ang mga players sa bench hindi naka-mask," said Dizon.
"Dito ang in-impose ng PBA, 'pag ikaw ay nasa bench, kailangan mo mag-mask. Meron din tayo strict protocols na pinagbabawal natin ang physical, more physical contact apart from the game play," he added.
While both Dizon and Marcial acknowledge that these guidelines may be tough to follow at first, they hope that the players will soon get used to it.
They also stress that gestures such as high fives and fist bumps are "discouraged" but not disallowed entirely, as they understand if players fail to comply in the heat of the moment.
"Pero at least, alam ng players natin na it's discouraged," said Dizon. "It's like us in the new normal, always thinking about not shaking hands and doing elbow bumps instead."
"Nung una medyo mahirap, muscle memory ang kakamayan mo ang tao. Pero 'yun naman ang purpose natin, and hopefully masanay ang players natin," he added.