MANILA – A showdown between Meralco and Rain Or Shine will tip off the PBA Governors' Cup.
The Bolts and the Elasto Painters collide in the opening game of the season-ending conference at 4:30 p.m. on Jan. 22 at the PhilSports Arena in Pasig City.
Among the main headlines of the game is James Yap's much-awaited return to ROS after winning a seat in the San Juan City council last May and whether Michael Qualls will explode anew against Meralco.
Qualls sizzled for 53 points including the game-winner with six rebounds and three blocks as ROS edged Meralco, 122-120, in their tuneup game on Monday at the Meralco Gym also in Pasig.
In the second game at 6:45 p.m. Sunday at the arena formerly known as "The ULTRA", NorthPort begins life with Bonnie Tan and Pido Jarencio exchanging roles against Converge.
Tan will now be the Batang Pier's head coach and Jarencio will now take the role of team manager.
Action will shift to the Smart Araneta Coliseum in Quezon City on Jan. 25 with Blackwater battling NLEX at 3 p.m. and Jamike Jarin and Jojo Lastimosa making their debuts as Phoenix and TNT head coaches, respectively, at 5:45 p.m.
On Jan. 26 back at the PhilSports Arena, Terrafirma takes on Converge at 4:30 p.m., while NorthPort and Meralco collide at 6:45 p.m.
The PBA will then have three straight nights of action at the Ynares Center in Antipolo City, beginning with a Jan. 27 twinbill featuring the Fuel Masters against the Bossing at 3 p.m. and the Tropang Giga against the E-Painters at 5:45 p.m.
Magnolia and San Miguel, two of the Commissioner's Cup semifinalists, will make their Governors' Cup debuts on Jan. 29 also at the Ynares Center.
The Hotshots take on the FiberXers at 4:30 p.m., while the Beermen battle the Fuel Masters at 6:45 p.m.
Ginebra, the newly-crowned Commissioner's Cup champion, will make its own debut in the season-ending conference on Jan. 29 at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
The Gin Kings battle the Elasto Painters at 6:45 p.m. after the 4:30 p.m. clash between the Hotshots and the Beermen.
The PBA will then hold four doubleheaders in seven nights at the SM Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City, beginning with a Feb. 10 twinbill featuring Magnolia versus Phoenix at 3 p.m. and Ginebra against NorthPort at 5:45 p.m.
The main highlight of the MOA Arena treats, however, is the pre-Valentine's Day "Manila Clasico" on Feb. 12 between the Hotshots and the Gin Kings at 6:45 p.m. right after the 4:30 p.m. clash pitting the Elasto Painters and the Bossing.
Some Gilas stuff in play
The PBA has taken into consideration Gilas Pilipinas' buildup for a busy 2023 calendar, including the national team's stint in the Southeast Asian Games.
To make room for more training time, the league brought back Thursday night games to speed up the conference starting with the Jan. 26 twinbill.
On the other hand, to give way to Gilas' FIBA World Cup Qualifiers game against Lebanon at the Philippine Arena in Bocaue town, the PBA will not hold a game on Feb. 24.
However, the release of the Governors' Cup elimination round schedule hinted that Gilas coach Chot Reyes will build his Gilas core again around players from Ginebra, San Miguel, and TNT just like in the Commissioner's Cup.
The Tropang Giga will play their first nine games of the Governors' Cup within a span of 25 nights, while the Beermen have a more compact schedule where they will also play their first nine games within three full weeks.
Another reason why TNT and SMB have a very hectic start to their campaign is that they will fly to Japan for the EASL Champions' Week.
The Gin Kings, on the other hand, have a relatively light yet still very busy calendar as they will play six games within two full weeks.
Fresh from beating Bay Area in the Commissioner's Cup Finals in front of 54,589 fans at the Philippine Arena, Ginebra has been given three weeks of rest before swinging back to action.
PBA All-Star Week back
Meanwhile, PBA Commissioner Willie Marcial confirmed that the lull in action from March 9-14 is reserved for the return of the PBA All-Star Week.
This would be the league's first All-Star festivities in four years or since Calasiao town in Pangasinan province hosted the event in 2019.
Iloilo City was penned to host the 2020 edition, but the coronavirus disease 2019 pandemic forced the PBA to scrap everything.
The PBA is currently finalizing the details of the All-Star Week. (PNA)