In PBA’s UFA, the beginnings of a worrying trend

Phoenix star, Matthew Wright.

Phoenix star, Matthew Wright. PBA . IMAGES

As the Philippine Basketball Association finally ushered in the era of unrestricted free agency, commissioner Willie Marcial admitted he didn’t yet have enough data to determine how to effectively implement railings around the main book to protect it from abuse.

“The first year will be testing,” he told the Inquirer when UFA was finally activated.

Marcial was not a commissioner when the board approved the UFA, the team that would be pioneered by the 2014 Rookie Draft class in their seventh season in the league. So it’s understandable that he’d like to see how things turn out before starting the process.

Meanwhile, a small freelance spy drama is playing at Camp Phoenix, where Matthew Wright will have to make a decision soon. Drafted in 2016, Wright has two years left to go to UFA, but he has options now that his contract with Fuel Masters has expired.

He can, like others did before him, take his talents abroad.

“If there is an opportunity, the price is right, sometimes you have to reconsider,” he said recently.

Luckily for the league, Wright’s roots were in power in the country.

“I want to stay in the Philippines. My family is here, my son was born in St. Luke’s, I have a farm in Quezon. My whole life here. I’ve been here for over six years and it’s not easy to get out and leave. Nobody really wants to do that,” he said.

And it’s not just because of Phoenix and the PBA.

“I love the PBA. I love Gilas. And those two are very hard to separate,” says Wright.

His frustration, however, is tied to what has happened so far in an era of growth in the freelance freelance workforce.

“To sum up, we had a very painful season in terms of personnel losses. We lost Calvin (Abueva), we lost Vic (Manuel), we lost (Chris Banchero), we lost Justin (Chua). It was an all-star team right there that we lost. Wright said.

“Every day we go to practice, one of them is gone. It’s crazy, man, and it’s really frustrating that I’ve been with Phoenix for six years, when we were nothing, when we were so bad. We kept building, building, building, and we got to a point where I thought we were going to be the next team to show up. ”

“And we just trade everyone.”

[A]from Banchero, other UFA deals are: Rodney Brondial (from Alaska to San Miguel Beer), Nard Pinto (from Meralco to Barangay Ginebra), Matt Ganuelas-Rosser (Terrafirma to TNT) and Jericho Cruz (NLEX to San Miguel Beer) ). All five players who have been successful at UFA are on “group teams”.

He may have a point. Before all those deals, Phoenix was one of three teams — the other two being Alaska and Rain or Shine — expected to go up against the brotherhood of two powerful corporations.

And with Alaska leaving, Fuel Masters’ stockpiles in the form of PLDT/SMC paper are sure to increase.

And Wright was right about the compact lineup Phoenix has built. The team can have five competing Wright, Banchero, Manuel, Chua, and Jason Perkins on the floor (Abueva doesn’t count because he’s the piece Phoenix used in exchange for Banchero). In this perimeter-oriented chapter of the game, the heavy postseason can be a handicap; but until teams really flaunt Steph Currys on their roster, Chua’s long jump ability is a usable space maker.

But Manuel was finally assigned to NorthPort for a still unused Sean Anthony. Chua was traded to NLEX for Kris Porter and picks. And Banchero, a UFA, couldn’t stop packing his bags and made the trip to Meralco.

That last bit will hurt Wright even more, because Phoenix was involved in that transaction.

And it also gives Marcial something to think about as he looks at UFA.

It’s not really a glaring flaw as it’s been a worrisome trend so far, but it’s still worth our serious consideration.

Because besides Banchero, other UFA transactions are: Rodney Brondial (from Alaska to San Miguel Beer), Nard Pinto (from Meralco to Barangay Ginebra), Matt Ganuelas-Rosser (Terrafirma to TNT), and Jericho Cruz (NLEX to San Miguel Beer).

All five players who have been successful at UFA are on “group teams”.

There hasn’t been much buzz about that fact yet, mainly because two out of five are from corporate teams and it could be argued that the Aces already knew where they were going so engaging in a war for Brondial is useless.

But the 2015 Draft Class will be eligible for UFA from this year onwards. From next year onwards, the 2016 Draft Class will also be able to take advantage of UFA.

And Wright was in that 2016 group. So his frustration should now cause — at least — a mild warning. Especially when it comes to creating equal competition, the league isn’t exactly giving the needles a shiver.

So it can be a bit confusing to hear Wright say: “It’s very difficult to stay focused and motivated. It’s a special tax on me and Perk — a daily tax to keep these people afloat and just hope that someone comes along and steps up. “

It was a signal for Phoenix to act.

And that is a clue for the league if it hopes to have a successful match against the UFA.

For Fuel Masters, how they handle Wright’s frustration will determine if they’re ready to fully step into the role of the immaculate basketball firefly that relentlessly annoys corporations. or just sitting next to teams like Terrafirma and Blackwater, seemingly content with maintaining a presence PBA.

As for the PBA, the way it ultimately restructures UFA into an exciting market worthy of an annual sideshow to its leagues will be crucial to its future. It could mark the difference between a proud and highly competitive guy like Wright who sticks with his team until eventually winning the title and a disgruntled superstar who eventually gives up and gives chase. ring by joining teams earn money.

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