MANILA, OCTOBER 1, 2006 (STAR) By Joaquin Henson - A convergence of the past and present will be depicted in music as the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) inaugurates its 32nd season at the Araneta Coliseum this afternoon.

The legendary Apo Hiking Society will host a one-hour program to kick off the new campaign with contemporary bands Kamikaze and Dawn performing the trio’s ageless hits in modern rock style.

"In the PBA’s 32nd year, we’re celebrating basketball as we’ve valued it in the past and giving it a fresh look for the young generation," said PBA commissioner Noli Eala. "It’s a symbolic message that we hope will establish what we’re trying to achieve in reaching out to more markets, particularly the youth."

The theme of "The Pride Is Back" will usher in the new season which Eala described to be exciting and unpredictable with a stellar cast of 19 rookies, 16 veterans wearing new uniforms, more balanced competition and a 10th team in expansion franchise Welcoat.

The opening program will also unveil the league’s new theme song capturing the spirit of "The Pride Is Back" and integrating the battlecry of "Laban Kung Laban."

Before Welcoat and Ginebra San Miguel take to the floor, the teams will be introduced with their muses in what promises to be a treat for fans. The parade of muses will be like a beauty pageant.

Defending All-Filipino champion Purefoods is out to upstage the other teams by bringing in 12 muses, one for each player. A team source said no less than Kris Aquino, wife of Purefoods star and league MVP James Yap, chose the 12 muses from the charmers in her TV show "Deal Or No Deal."

Ginebra’s muse is calendar girl Angelica Panganiban. Welcoat will show up with Bianca King, San Miguel Beer with Valerie Concepcion, Coca-Cola with Miss Tourism Justine Gabionza and model Elona Novazek, Talk ‘N’ Text with Pauline Luna, Air21 with Tanya Garcia and Alaska with Gelli de Belen.

Red Bull’s muse is international ramp and commercial model Milena Krahulcova of the Czech Republic. The team’s Rowena Sanchez said Krahulcova is another addition to the Barakos’ roster of European muses the last four years, courtesy of Ahensya Modelo.

There was no reply from Sta. Lucia Realty on whom the Realtors’ muse will be. Sta. Lucia coach Alfrancis Chua said he didn’t know.

Eala said the new season will be highlighted by some key reinterpretations of rules, particularly the use of the arm bar in defense and the jump-stop move.

"We’re determined to make the game more exciting," said Eala. "In the arm bar rule, the referees will now allow a defender to stand his ground against an offensive player backing in whether straight up or diagonally. Of course, you can’t use the arm bar when you’re facing an offensive player. In the jump-stop rule, the referees will allow an extra step but with the pivot foot on the floor like Alvin Patrimonio used to do."

The arm bar rule will prevent too much one-on-one action at the post where a dominant big man could use brute force to back in. With the defender able to hold his ground, it will force the post player to consider passing options and involve others in the offense.

Eala said the influx of 19 rookies adds a dimension of youth and poses a challenge to the veterans in the new season.

The rookies listed in the 10 rosters are Air21’s Arwind Santos, Alaska’s Christian Luanzon and Aaron Aban, Coca-Cola’s Joseph Yeo, Ronjay Enrile, Manuel Caceres and R.J. Rizada, Purefoods’ Boyet Bautista, San Miguel Beer’s Gabby Espinas and L.A. Tenorio, Sta. Lucia’s Kelly Williams, Mark Isip and Ronnie Bughao, Talk ‘N’ Text’s Mark Andaya and Welcoat’s Jun-Jun Cabatu, Jay-R Reyes, Jay Sagad, Jireh Ibanes and Froilan Baguion.

"Our new batch of rookies is extremely talented," said Eala. "I can see them challenging the veterans who, I’m sure, won’t back down. From what I’ve seen in the preseason games, the veterans are as ready to play as the rookies. Take, for instance, Sta. Lucia. The arrival of Williams, Isip and Bughao is bringing new life to Sta. Lucia and the veterans are responding. It’s an inspiring situation where the rookies are energizing the team. Then, you’ve got the return of (Alex) Cabagnot. I think we’ll see a very competitive Sta. Lucia team this season."

Additionally, 16 veterans will be playing for new teams. They are Air21’s Aris Dimaunahan, Alaska’s Poch Juinio, Coca-Cola’s Allan Salangsang and Kalani Ferreria, Ginebra’s Billy Mamaril, Rafi Reavis, Johnny Abarrientos and Rudy Hatfield, Welcoat’s Rob Wainwright, Joey Mente, Nino Gelig, Adonis Sta. Maria, Jojo Tangkay, Denver Lopez and Gilbert Lao and San Miguel’s Willie Wilson.

Expected to make an impact as comebacking players from the injury list are Red Bull’s Rich Alvarez, Air21’s Gary David, Purefoods’ Jondan Salvador and Ginebra’s Andy Seigle and Jay-Jay Helterbrand. Coca-Cola’s Jason Misolas is returning to the Tigers lineup after several years of playing in the commercial leagues.

As for expansion team Welcoat, Eala said he has high hopes for the Dragons.

"I think they’re two players away from becoming a championship contender," said Eala. "Coach Leo (Austria) is one of the best in the game and I have a lot of respect for him. Just look at what he did for Adamson in the UAAP this season. He knows what he’s doing and where he’s going. I also think the team owners Raymund Yu and Terry Que are a winning combination. It’s a young team with a lot of experience because they’re got veterans from the PBL (Philippine Basketball League)."

Welcoat captured six titles, four via 3-0 sweeps, in 12 Finals over 10 PBL seasons in preparing for the jump to the pros.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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