PBA commissioner Willie Marcial open to more guest teams after successful Bay Area Dragons stint

Bay Area Dragons became the first foreign guest team to reach a PBA finals series in almost 43 years before ultimately losing out in the Commissioner's Cup to Barangay Ginebra. PBA Media Bureau

Following a successful Commissioner's Cup that saw a foreign guest team -- Bay Area Dragons -- make the finals for the first time in nearly 43 years, PBA commissioner Willie Marcial said the league is looking at having more guest teams compete for titles in the near-future.

"We can try it maybe once a year, every season," Marcial told ESPN in Tagalog. "We tried it, and it was successful. Let's see. We were able to help them, and they helped us (in basketball development). It was a win-win."

Barangay Ginebra coach Tim Cone also thinks a regular guest team would be good for the league.

"I don't know if it's necessary to do it every conference," Cone said after Ginebra walloped Bay Area in Game 7 on Sunday. "But I think that it's obviously it's a change of pace and the extra challenge and weapons affordable and the league can do it, why not?

"Why don't we open it up to some of the other teams? It wouldn't even be bad to have two or three at one time, but it's all about finances and such. This (Bay Area) was a special team. I mean, they put together a really good team. Really good team, a lot of good players on that team."

The league used to host an Invitational Conference, featuring only the top three or four PBA teams and two or three guest teams. It lasted hosted a similar tournament in 2003 with the Invitational Championship. The Dragons were the first guest team since that tournament that was eligible to win the championship.

Marcial revealed that an Australian team has already sent feelers about coming over, but initially for a series of exhibition games. The Bay Area Dragons, according to Marcial, also wish to come back soon.

"Let's see what will happen, what we can arrange with these teams," revealed Marcial. "If we can come to an arrangement, then why not? It was a success. Fans, players, governors, in the media said (the Commissioner's Cup) was a success."

The East Asia Super League, which owns the Dragons, is committed to a long-term partnership with the PBA, with Marcial adding that EASL CEO Matt Beyer was in constant communication with him throughout the conference and repeatedly said his league wanted to participate in the PBA as often as possible.

"It's just a matter of aligning everything," Marcial said.

Sunday night's Game 7 between the Dragons and eventual champions Ginebra set an attendance record at the Philippine Arena, drawing nearly 55,000 fans. In terms of TV, Marcial said the game peaked at a 9.3 audience share, a high number for a PBA game. On livestreaming, the game was also closely watched in China.

Marcial also revealed that the PBA, with the backing of the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP), plans to invite national teams that will be setting up training camp here for the 2023 FIBA World Cup in late August to a series of exhibition games or even a pocket tournament with PBA teams.

"Our plan is around late July or early August, we'll invite the teams that will be here for their training camp," revealed Marcial.

"I've already talked to the SBP, and they're okay with it. Let's see what we need to do to make it happen. These teams will be looking for tune-up games, and we can provide that. But we'll invite those teams that won't be in the Philippines' group."

Manila will be hosting 15 foreign teams for the group stage of the FIBA World Cup, which kicks off on Aug. 25. Teams usually arrive in the host country for training camps several weeks before the opening to acclimate themselves.