The KIA Sorento team was thrilled by the announcement that trainer Freddie Roach has already allowed his ward Manny Pacquiao to play on the opening day of the 40th season of the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) on Sunday at the Philippine Arena in Bulacan.
KIA Sorento, under the tutelage of playing head coach and reigning World Boxing Organization (WBO) welterweight champion Pacquiao, will battle Blackwater Elite in the first game at 3 p.m.
“We all knew since from the very start that Manny would play in the opener. It’s not a surprise at all,” Pacquiao’s business manager Eric Pineda told The Manila Times on Monday in a phone interview. “The players are now very inspired to play because Manny will be there.”
“It’s music to the ears of all my teammates,” said 6’4 KIA forward Mike Burtscher in separate interview. “Everybody wanted to see and play alongside Manny in the opening day. We’re all inspired to play basketball.”
On Thursday, Roach announced that he is not allowing Pacquiao to play basketball until his fight with unbeaten American WBO junior welterweight champion Chris Algieri on November 23 is over to avoid risk of injuries.
Pacquiao is presently undergoing training in General Santos under Roach and assistant trainer Buboy Fernandez.
Roach had a change of heart on Sunday.
“He asked my permission to play in the opening for the sake of the fans, so I told him I would allow him to play for one minute,” Roach told philboxing.com. “He can play as long as he wishes if that’s what it will take to make the fans happy.”
“I told him to take care and not to get injured.”
Pineda also said that Roach would also attend the PBA opener with Fernandez to show their support to Pacquiao.
“I’m hoping the players will just play their best since Manny will be there,” Pineda added. “It’s also good for the PBA.”
Pacquiao scored one point via free throw in the exhibition game between Kia and Blackwater in Biñan Laguna two weeks ago. Blackwater won the match 70-77.