After successful Commissioner's Cup run, Bay Area Dragons eye potential future in the PBA

The Bay Area Dragons could see a lot more time in the PBA after a successful Commissioner's Cup conference. PBA Media Bureau

After the Bay Area Dragons' successful run in the recently concluded Commissioner's Cup, East Asia Super League CEO Matt Beyer said the experience benefited both leagues and opened opportunities.

"We're gonna sit down with the PBA and talk about the future for that and how we continue to work on this and have the Dragons play in the PBA," Beyer told ESPN in an exclusive interview. "But I think the intention whether it be from Commissioner Willie (Marcial) or Chairman Ricky Vargas or other people within the PBA league office and among the teams is that it's been an exciting season and there's been value added because of the Dragons."

Beyer said there was heightened interest in the Dragons, particularly in the Commissioner's Cup finals, from viewers in China and the region.

"Next season, we're ready to help the PBA get a major rights deal in the market," Beyer said. "I think if the Bay Area Dragons continue to play in the Commissioner's Cup or in the PBA in whatever fashion in the future that there's going to be a Chinese rights holder that's going to want to come to the table to spend major money on this.

"If we're looking at just on EASL's social media accounts alone, I think we put it on three social media accounts with a combined quarter of a million, that's pretty good. That's just EASL. If you think about it, you put a big Chinese platform behind this you could be looking at 5 to 10 million fans per game in the future. And that's a very conservative estimate. On EASL games previously we've had over 22 million fans watching our games over all territories but at least 10 to 15 million from China alone on some of those games."

There is also talk about bringing some PBA games to the Dragons' backyard, according to Beyer.

"We're gonna be looking at the possibility of integrating games to the greater bay area of China, which would be Hong Kong and Macau, and to be able to see PBA action in these places as well where there can be multi-geography presence of these PBA games. That's sort of a broad concept at this point, but I think it's something that, if the finances work out and the scheduling works out, that would be very exciting."

While the Dragons fell short of the championship, falling to Barangay Ginebra San Miguel in lopsided fashion in Game 7, Beyer was happy with their overall performance.

"I think the team did excellently for a team that's together for the first season, new league, and the whole roster has been built from nothing," Beyer said. "You're playing arguably the best team in the PBA with a sizeable portion of the national team players, where every game is a road game, I thought they performed great. And I'm very proud of them."

However, Beyer admits that the team may have been overwhelmed by the Game 7 atmosphere in front of 55,000 fans.

"That raucous fan base in an arena like that and maybe there's 2% of the fan base that's there to support you and then the rest are for the other team, I think that's practice for the players and to go through that adversity, to have been through that will make them a lot stronger."

The Dragons have been in Manila since August, and will continue to train here for the next few weeks before leaving for Japan for the EASL Champions Week in early March. After that, the team may look at tweaking its lineup and to start preparing for the EASL's home-and-away tournament that's slated to kick off on Oct. 11.

Beyer believes the conditions are ripe for the EASL and the Dragons to reach greater heights in 2023.

"I'm just extremely grateful for the people in the Philippines, the PBA, the media for giving us a chance and welcoming us and allowing us to do this and opening their hearts to us," Beyer said. "I really look forward to what lies in the future and I think we're gonna do even bigger and more exciting things as we go forward."