Filed Under: Basketball, PBA, Barako Bull Energy Boosters, Smart Gilas Pilipinas, Leave of absence
MANILA---Barako Bull has applied for a leave of absence from the PBA and wants to give its slot in the coming Commissioner’s Cup to the Smart-Gilas national five.
Financially hobbled the past couple of years, the franchise made its intent known to the Office of the Commissioner Wednesday night. Barako Bull’s request will be included in the agenda of the Jan. 25 meeting of team owners at Edsa Shangri-La.
Barako Bull cited “national interest” for its move, which would allow the league to keep an even-numbered 10-team field when it accommodates the Nationals.
“This is a sort of sacrifice on their (Boosters’) part because the PBA will have problems scheduling an 11-team roster,” said league commissioner Chito Salud.
“Sir George (Chua, the team owner) thought of making the ultimate sacrifice,” Raffy Casiao, the team’s alternate board member, told reporters. “We decided to let them (Smart Gilas) use our slot for the meantime.”
But a source said the move is seen by many as a chance for the Barako Bull franchise to assess its options and even entertain offers from parties willing to buy the ballclub.
“With this process (of taking a leave), it gives the franchise time to rethink its options,” said the source, who spoke on the condition that he is not identified. “But the writing is already on the wall.”
Informed of the development, Smart Gilas team manager Frankie Lim welcomed the possibility of playing in the PBA as a regular team.
“If it happens, it will make us very competitive,” said Lim, who is in Dubai where the Smart Gilas five is competing in an international tournament.
“It will be a big test for our players. At the same time, it’s also an opportunity for them to showcase their talents.”
There are reports that several groups outside the current PBA roster are interested in acquiring the franchise. Buying time could give Barako Bull the leverage to haggle for the best price possible for its slot in the PBA.
Sta. Lucia, a realty firm whose revenues were affected by the worldwide economic crunch the last two years, left the PBA after 18 years at the end of last season. It sold its franchise for an undisclosed amount to the Meralco Bolts.
Barako Bull entered the PBA in 2000 as Red Bull and won three import-laced conference titles with Yeng Guiao as the coach and with Kerby Raymundo, Willie Miller, Jimwell Torion and Fil-American Davonn Harp as its stars.
The franchise came to hard times in the last three years and started losing its marquee players one by one through one-sided trades, leaving it with practically very little value now.
It finished out of the playoffs in each of the last five conferences, with its last title coming in the 2005-2006 Fiesta Conference.
The Commissioner’s Cup will feature imports standing not more than 6-feet-4 in height per team starting Feb. 20.