Monday, October 23, 2017

Is KIA the 4th franchise of SMC?

                                                   Photo credit: Philippine Daily Inquirer
The quick answer is a NO, they're not. Just like Global Port before when Ramon Ang used to own shares with Manila North Harbor Port, Inc. (see: There's a catch though...Batang Global Port, the basketball team, is listed as a team owned by Sultan 900 Capital, Inc. While we know Sultan 900 and MNHPI are sister companies - the former partly owned and the latter fully owned by the Romero family - it doesn't equate to SMC being a sister company of Sultan 900.

That's all water under the bridge now. With the recent acquisition of former DLSU bankroller Enrique Razon of ICTSI of the 35% stake of RSA at MNHPI (see:, Global Port cannot be suspected of being a sister team of the SMC squads. One wonders how much Razon will involve himself with the direct operations of the company - especially when it comes to their basketball team. If he does get involved, then the likelihood of GBP staying in the PBA looms likely.

The same dilemma is now experienced with KIA, the basketball team. The Picantos, according to the PBA, is owned by Columbian Autocar Corporation (CAC). Recently, RSA purchased 65% stake in the local importer and distributor of BMW from Asian Carmakers Corporation (ACC) previously owned by Pepito Alvarez, the owner of CAC. Like Romero at MNHPI, while ACC is a sister company of CAC, it is not a sister company (at least on paper) of any of the SMC teams.

There's a source of concern if SMC is proven to have links with CAC. League rules prohibit any conglomerate to own a fourth PBA team. And this may be one of the topics that may be discussed in the next PBA Board meeting this Thursday, October 26. Critics of the trade deal made by KIA with SMC where the Picantos will give up their top overall pick for 2017 for SMB's Matt Rosser, Ronald Tubid, Yancy De Ocampo and RaShawn McCarthy will obviously find ways to stop this transaction from getting consummated.

The Board has no power to stop trade deals - that job falls on the Commissioner. But of course, the Board has increasingly become more involved with the direct operations of the league so I won't be surprised if they actually do. Or at least, influence Narvasa to veto the deal. But that cannot be done if the issue is if there's imbalance in the trade. Narvasa can simply ask the Beermen to tweak the deal by offering different players - perhaps one starter at least. This has been done before.

But if the other members of the Board decide to raise the ownership issue of SMC at ACC, then the discussion can become complicated. And heated. For obvious reasons, The burden of proof in proving SMC owning CAC in part is with the complainants. We don't know when the purchase will be officially made or if it has taken place already. In the absence of any formal acquisition, that still doesn't make SMC part owner of ACC.

But when it's there, SMC Car Asia will own 65% of ACC. ACC is a sister company of CAC. Wouldn't that make SMC Car Asia a sister company of CAC?

Assuming the link is established (although I doubt it), that would make KIA as SMC's 4th team in the PBA. That perhaps would be the only argument that can be presented to veto / rescind the trade deal. It's not going to be easy though. The Board is made up of underlings of the team owners so issues pertaining to ownership may be beyond the pay grade of the SMC officials involved.

The corporate rival, MPIC Group would also likely take a cautious stand on this as this would impact heavily on the composition of the national team. With the FIBA qualifiers about to start next month, the last thing the Gilas national team (bankrolled by the MPIC Group) would want to happen is to lose key players from their roster - guys like 4x MVP Junemar Fajardo and Japeth Aguilar, two of our most important big men. They'll most likely support any decision to veto the trade, but it won't come from them.

It was Alaska team manager Dickie Bachmann who raised the trade issue. Note though that the flak went to the KIA management, a deliberate approach to avoid running into conflict with the powerful SMC Group. Bachmann questioned KIA's intent on becoming competitive, evidenced by their willingness to go through this lopsided trade.

Will Bachmann raise the ownership issue in the Board meeting, or just bring up the KIA issue? From where we stand, a compromise may be reached in the end. KIA's franchise will be sold to another company (say, Chooks-To-Go) at the end of the season but since the trade deal was made with KIA still an active member, this will be be consummated, with a few revisions in the personalities involved.

KIA goes and SMB and Ginebra will end up establishing a dynastic rivalry that will try to equate with Crispa and Toyota. All's well that ends well, right?

Or is it?

Narvasa's Formula for PBA Relevance: A Redux of Crispa-Toyota?

                                                       (photo credit:

The KIA-SMB trade deal is good as done. There's no way the Picantos will acquire the potential top pick, Christian Standhardinger, simply because they can't afford him. And what better way to not worry about him but by trading him to alleged "sister" team, San Miguel. There are technicalities involved of course - like KIA's declared franchise owner is Columbian Autocar Corporation (CAC) while SMC's 65% ownership, named SMC Car Asia, is through Asian Carmakers Corporation (ACC).

The bottomline is that there's a link between SMC and KIA's owner, Pepito Alvarez. And that relationship may actually have a great influence on KIA's decision to trade its first pick with SMB and not with other teams.

But there's no way Commissioner Chito Narvasa can rescind this deal. Unless - the PBA Board on Thursday, October 26, in their meeting, rescinds / vetoes this deal because of the alleged sister team setup. They can't veto the deal if deemed lopsided - SMB will simply offer more sweeteners, not to mention the oft-mentioned "cash considerations" and "salary subsidy." And that's the job of Narvasa, not the Board.

If the Board decides to bring up the issue of SMC's ownership of ACC, expect a heated exchange of words in the conference room. Critics of the deal would claim KIA is now a 4th team of the SMC conglomerate - prohibited in league rules. SMB can argue that the conglomerate's ownership is with ACC, not CAC. Hence, they're not sister teams because ACC has no franchise in the PBA.

And if nothing comes out of this expected discussion and the trade remains, SMB will most likely pick CS as their pick to play #4 alongside 4x MVP Junemar Fajardo, forming perhaps the most feared slot combo in league history. The Beermen nearly won the Slam this year, and if not for import problems in the Governors' Cup, they could've gone all the way. The only team projected to compete against them would be Barangay Ginebra, they with an equally formidable frontline in Greg Slaughter and Japeth Aguilar, plus, Tim Cone of course. In the last PHL Cup, these two tangled in the Finals, a testament to the strength of their local rosters.

No other team would hold a candle against them. Sure, teams like Star, the 3 Metro Pacific teams, and indie teams ROS and ALA, may pull off a surprise or two, but when the dust is cleared, SMB and Ginebra will end up the last teams standing. It's a virtual duopoly in terms of league dominance.

It's a throwback of what the PBA was in its first decade. Two teams, Crispa and Toyota virtually lorded it over the rest, collectively winning the first 10 conferences at stake, and not missing a single Finals appearance until the 2nd Conference of 1984. By this time, Toyota has already disbanded and Crispa was already suffering a financial crisis.

Perhaps, Narvasa has given up hope of coming up with a semblance of parity in the league. Then Deputy Commissioner Tommy Manotoc was the primary exponent of league balance and parity, and he knew what he spoke, having coached U/Tex and San Miguel Beer before handling Crispa in 1983. Manotoc wanted to make sure all PBA teams have the opportunity to win championships - he distributed the Crispa players when the team disbanded after the 1984 season, instead of lumping them all together in the buying team - Formula Shell. He espoused equal opportunity by distributing the top four centers of the league at that time - Ramon Fernandez, Abet Guidaben, Manny Victorino and Yoyoy Villamin. He did away with the handicapping system among imports when many thought it would be disadvantageous to the supposed teams with weaker rosters, but ultimately, it worked out well.

But with SMB and Ginebra ready to flex its muscle on everyone, Narvasa may have conceded that the best road back to relevance for the league is have a dynasty of a rivalry between SMB and Ginebra. Many may argue this won't happen - they're sister teams so how can such a rivalry be possible?

Then again, the biggest rivalry the PBA today is Manila Clasico - aptly called when bitter rivals yet sister teams Ginebra and Star go up against each other. In the 80's and early 90's - when Ginebra and SMB were already sister teams, they had their own heated rivalry as well. So the sibling rivalry argument doesn't hold water.

Hard to argue with those against this looming duopoly because it is counter-productive. So much effort has been wasted already when parity started deserting the league in the early 2000's. Pity Manotoc, the elder Salud (+), and Bernardino (+) who worked hard to giving each team equal chances of winning. Proof? From the period of 1990 to 1992 alone, 7 of the then 8 PBA teams at that time, won championships. Only Pepsi failed to snare a title during that period.

Perhaps Narvasa feels that it's much easier to bring back the fans in the stands when you just need to strengthen the popular teams further and make them form a dynastic rivalry. The more games these two teams play, the better at the tills. Make Star (the other popular team) a perennial darkhorse and Narvasa shoots two birds with one bullet - the popular teams get to dominate and SMC management would be happy.

More than anything, I'm convinced the most challenging in any Commissioner's job description is to keep the SMC owners happy. A couple of years back, SMC threatened to withdraw from the league in the aftermath of the Renaldo Balkman incident ( It may have taken a lot of ego-massaging on the PBA's part to appease management. For no matter how one cuts it, an SMC pullout would mean signing the league's death warrant.

So while we all disagree that this potential "dynastic rivalry" will be good for the league in the long run, I won't be surprised if this in the Commissioner's mindset as his way of "saving the league."

Friday, July 15, 2016

The Paul Lee dilemma and Rain or Shine's options...

PBA fans have practically conceded that Paul Lee would eventually be traded to another PBA team soon. And it's not because Rain or Shine doesn't like him - Coach Yeng Guiao has said that Lee is their franchise player. 

The situation is complex because of the PBA's ruling that states any player who has played in the league for 7 years automatically becomes an unrestricted FA. Hence, Lee, who was drafted second overall in the 2011 season, will be free to sign up for any team of his choice by 2017. 

The caveat is that ROS is given an opportunity to give Lee a salary that's 20% higher than what other teams may offer him. Hence, if the maximum salary is P420k a month, ROS can give him a salary worth P504k a month. But will Lee and his manager, Lawrence Chongson, bite?

This is probably a foregone conclusion already. Not because ROS doesn't want him - just that they wouldn't be able to match the offers from the bigger conglomerates in terms of incentives, bonuses, and others that are not part of the salary cap.

The key though is the timing. There's likelihood that Lee will sign up for a one-year max contract and wait for next year where he'll be an unrestricted FA. Should they trade Lee as early as possible or wait in the middle of next season before giving him up?

The ROS dilemma is that the unrestricted FA status that Lee will carry after next season will dilute their bargaining leverage. Teams would be privy to Lee's intent of testing the market come the 2017-18 season and may not be amenable to a "just and fair" trade. Lee's value is definitely higher than just a first round pick and ROS can ask for another player in return - or get another team's first round pick plus an active player, while giving up Lee and their own active player that's lower in value. 

The best deal that ROS can get would be to give up Lee and, say, a Don Trollano, for Mahindra's first pick and a Bradwyn Guinto, or Blackwater's first pick and a JP Erram. That trade would be the closest to being equal in value.

However, will the two newer teams be willing to pay for Lee's maximum contract plus incentives, considering they're not exactly willing to spend that much? Similarly, with Lee's unrestricted FA status looming largely in the horizon, these two teams may find themselves in the same dilemma as ROS is now - where they may end up losing Lee come 2017. 

From what Chongson has written in the PinoyExchange boards before, he's bent on giving Lee the best deal possible when he becomes an unrestricted FA. The only teams capable of giving that much are the SMC and MPIC teams. These are the only companies that won't worry too much about Lee's contractual status come 2017 simply because they'll be more than willing to give this to him.

So what would happen if ROS deals directly with SMC and / or MPIC? Don't expect it to be an easy negotiation as these conglomerates will play "hard ball" in the trading table. Will ROS be willing to give Lee up for TNT's first round pick (which isn't going to be high because of their competitive status) and, say, a Ryan Reyes, who Guiao admires? Or Meralco with Nabong and their own first pick? 

Looking at the SMC side, will a Sangalang and a first round pick be enough to give up Lee and another ROS player? Or a first round pick and Dave Marcelo from Ginebra? Bottomline, it would be hard for ROS to extract fair compensation when they trade Lee so ROS fans would have to be lower their expectations.

This may end up getting messy in the end, but in the end, it seems there's nowhere else for Lee to go but for either conglomerate, no matter how much ROS values their recent Finals MVP.

Friday, January 15, 2016

The cause of Raymond Almazan's injury

Several fans have been asking how Raymond Almazan, the 6'8 beanpole center of the Rain or Shine Elasto Painters, got injured in practice prior to Game 3 of their Best of Seven series against the San Miguel Beermen. It indeed was quite unusual, especially for someone as important as Almazan, to suffer an ill-timed injury, at a crucial juncture.

While there's no one, not even Almazan, at ROS camp capable of stopping Junemar Fajardo, Almazan was the Painters' best hope of at least minimizing his effectiveness. Unlike the Extra Rice, Inc. - Beau Belga and JR Quiñahan, as well as Jewel Ponferrada, Almazan had some length that made it difficult for Fajardo to reach over from behind to get the rebound. At the same time, Almazan is an offensive threat that will force Fajardo to use up some energy to defend him.

So what happened? During practice, part of the rituals normally done by players is to body bump each other in celebration over a good move. Three players, Jireh Ibañes, Ponferrada and Almazan, saw the opportunity to body bump each other. While Almazan and Ibañes leaped as high as they can, Ponferrada unwittingly stayed on the floor. Upon landing, Almazan's foot hit Ponferrada's and painfully landed on the floor, twisting his ankle.

You can imagine how pissed Coach Yeng Guiao was after the incident. For ROS, losing Almazan for the series was extremely crucial. They can afford to lose a few of their guards, including the prolific Jericho Cruz, because they have a bevy of other talented guards who can take his place. The bigs are entirely different. Guiao rotates his 4 centers with almost equal playing time - losing one of them means the rotation suffers.

And now that Paul Lee himself would be out for the next 3-4 weeks due to a knee injury, hopes for the Painters to give their coach his first All Filipino crown has severely dimmed. Beating SMB two games in a row is already a near miraculous feat....what more winning 4 games against Alaska in the Finals minus Lee and a ginger-footed Almazan?

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Jeff Moore and Dennis Still comments on Jacobs

Was fortunate enough to receive replies from Dennis Still and Jeff Moore regarding my request to write their personal tribute to Ron Jacobs.

Allow me to post these:

From Dennis Still:

"One thing I can say about him he was a great teacher; he knew how to coach players and put them in the right spot. He always treated me like his own son and I always could talk to him about all kinds of things even at a young age. I think Coach Ron, among all kinds of coaches from different countries, but overall he was the best and there is no other coach in the Philippines who could do what he did with the Filipino young team. To beat United States two times, he knew what kind of player I was in that he let me play my game. He knew how to talk to me, to calm me down when I was ready to tear some heads off, LOL. I will always remember him. I'm hoping that I can come back and get with all the players it was my first ever best team I played with. I will miss him a lot."

From Jeffrey Moore:

"What can I say about Ron Jacob the man the legend the friend the father figure to me and so many more. This man meant the world to me, as a young man out of Tucson Arizona took me under his wings, he gave me a home like it was my own. You watched over me and guided me through life we made our way to Loyola Marymount where we had an incredible run changed the entire program around in one year. Two years later we're off to do the same in the Philippines where as history shows we did the same. This man taught me the true value of being a friend taught me to be patient to be understanding but more importantly taught me how to fight for what is right. There has never been a coach in my long history of playing the game of basketball that I wanted to do whatever it took to win for him. Truly I branch out into my coaching career no one inspired me more to become a coach then Ron Jacobs. I just feel so bad that I never had a chance to tell him how I feel and to tell him truly how much I love him and respected him as a human being. He will be missed by so many but most importantly by me. Rest in peace my friend, may God bless you and we miss you......"

Friday, January 8, 2016

When a Commissioner goes overboard..

Can't help but shake my head with the recent actions of Commissioner Chito Narvasa. He found himself not just right in the middle of a near brawl between the protagonists from the Alaska Aces and the Global Port Batang Pier teams, but in the center of the headlines once more.

Hard not to question Narvasa's decision to enter the court and help out in pacifying everyone - he was simply being pro-active and wanted to settle the situation the best way he knew. Personally, I'd rather see the Commissioner giving his officials enough latitude to run things on their own - it wasn't like it was a blown-up fisticuffs happening in our midst. I won't take it against him if he remained seated and watched the proceedings from his box - he'd have a better vantage point, particularly when he starts deliberating what sanctions are to be imposed.

But since Narvasa felt that he was needed inside the court, as if his underlings could not control the situation, I'll let this micro management pass. What is irritating and purely wrong was admonishing Alaska Ace Dondon Hontiveros. Instead of the pacifier, he became part of the tension. Instead of providing esteem to the office he occupies, he desecrated it.

No matter how Narvasa justified his acts, it was clear that he exacerbated the situation. Worse, he directed his ire on one particular individual, Hontiveros, who claimed that he was merely there to help control Jay Washington, a personal friend. To point his finger at Hontiveros at the heat of the moment betrays what Narvasa may be all about - an absolute control freak with narcissistic and authoritative tendencies.

That one single move of Narvasa last Wednesday night may perhaps be the most stupid act ever made by a PBA Commissioner in league history. I've criticized Chito Salud severely during his entire tenure as "kume" but Narvasa makes Salud appear like a Hall of Famer...

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Tim Cone at Ginebra - An Odd Fit?

Personal Musings: Tim Cone With Ginebra
Over the years, while I’ve expressed strong opinions on certain topics dealing with the league, I intentionally approached these from the vantage point of a neutral basketball follower.  This time around though, please allow me some latitude as I make my point from another view – that of a former team fan, in particular, Ginebra.

From 1986 to 1998, I’d like to believe I was the most ardent Ginebra fan you can ever find. There was nothing wrong with the team for me – I rationalized their actions, whether right or wrong. Friends ribbed me for becoming a “traitor,” as I originally cheered for the Crispa Redmanizers. To root for someone who was considered Crispa’s biggest “enemy” back then – Robert Jaworski, Sr. – was the last thing they’d expect from this basketball follower. But I did, triggered by Coach Jaworski’s hiring of former Crispa super import Billy Ray Bates in the 1986 Open Conference.


I shared the glory and heartaches of every Ginebra fan back then. When the team ran roughshod of Manila Beer in that same 1986 conference, I still see vignettes of the games played – how Billy Ray Bates stormed from court-to-court with 5 seconds left with the game tied at 133 to score a buzzer-beating slam that gave the Gins a 1-0 lead in their best of seven encounter. Or the heroism of