June Mar Fajardo, at 25, became just the fourth player in league history to win back-to-back PBA MVP trophies, while ending his third season with a PBA Press Corps-Holcim Finals MVP award in the Governors Cup Finals.
Youngsters Paul Lee of Rain or Shine and Greg Slaughter of Barangay Ginebra earned spots in the Mythical First team, while the Mythical Second team included young stars Calvin Abueva of Alaska, Terrence Romeo and rookie Stanley Pringle, both of GlobalPort.
For outgoing PBA commissioner Chito Salud, he believes he is leaving the league in good hands after seeing the pro league thrive with a bevy of young players, who are set to grab the baton from veteran stars like James Yap, Mark Caguioa, Arwind Santos, Ranidel de Ocampo, among others.
Of course, Yap and Co. have shown over the last few years they still have what it takes to churn out big numbers when needed, but it is very clear that the future has arrived for Fajardo, Slaughter and others.
“Competition was tough all season round with the young talents raising the level of play higher and making the game more exciting,” Salud said.
“As you can see, most of the year’s top performers honored during the Leo Awards belong to the younger breed of players. These are the men who will carry to torch for the PBA in the years to come,” he added.
But as great as these players are over the past season, we know that the league can’t rest on its laurels, what with players getting slapped with hefty fines, coaches like Yeng Guiao also getting penalized for his rants at officiating, and most teams wondering if the referees’ performance would still get better.
Personally, officiating will have to be addressed seriously by incoming commish Chito Narvasa in the hope that the league’s significant gains under Salud the past five years won’t just go to waste.
We’ve seen the Commissioner’s Office suspend erring referees each time they commit blunder during the game. But we know that mere suspension without pay of these referees is a mere stop-gap measure.
I’m no expert here, but perhaps, the pool of referees need fresh impartation from some NBA referees this off season.
That way, our local refs’ ‘education of the game’ continues. And hopefully, we’ll see an improved quality of officiating next season.
How about you? What are your thoughts on officiating?
As Narvasa assumes the commissionership for the PBA’s 41st season, Salud admonished his successor to continue improving the “quality of the games”, saying “it is the anchor of the league’s success and the players’ popularity”.
“Continue elevating the excitement so the fan base of each team and the league as a whole becomes stronger and broader both within and outside our country,” he said.
Narvasa will perform his first official function as PBA commissioner on Aug. 23 when the league holds its annual rookie draft at the Robinson’s Ermita in Manila.