PBA commissioner Chito Salud has assured that concerns over parity in the D-League is being addressed even before controversial statements made by Tanduay Light coach Lawrence Chongson regarding the matter.
Salud said steps are being made to achieve balance in the developmental league, which has seen just two champions in its entire four-year run, with NLEX winning all but one.
To address the problem of top players ending up together in one team, Salud said the league has scrapped the direct-hire system by instituting a rookie draft two years ago.
“Constructive statements regarding parity in the league are welcome because that is the common goal. We want parity,” Salud told Spin.ph after handing out a one-game suspension and a P150,000 fine on Chongson for his rant against the league.
“Remember, our league is young. We jumpstarted this league by allowing our members to recruit openly and instituting a policy of revolving door or, in other words, no permanent members muna,” said Salud.
League parity was put on the spotlight after the outspoken Chongson said other teams are left to fight for second place with the emergence of ‘super teams’ such as NLEX in the past, and now Hapee Toothpaste.
Chongson claimed that due to the perceived imbalance in the competition, the D-League has lost several franchises and instead, ended up luring ‘fly-by-night’ teams.
The Tanduay Light coach has since apologized for his controversial remarks, saying he made the 'wrong choice of words' while trying to express his concerns.
The suspension meant Chongson will miss Tanduay Light’s next game against, ironically, Hapee Toothpaste on Thursday.
Salud however, recognizes that it will take time to achieve parity in the early years of the league.
“Parity cannot be achieved overnight and it will take time especially in a new league where we allowed open recruitment to attract members,” Salud said.
Achieving parity in the league, Salud added, should not be at the expense of breaking rules.
“Parity cannot be achieved by allowing any team to disregard our rules just to be able to get a player without going through the proper process. A team could become stronger by being able to get through the proper process," he said.
“A team could become a stronger team by being able to get a marquee player. Of course, who doesn’t want that. As a commissioner, I want a weaker team to get a stronger player. But rules have to be observed and I cannot use parity or the lack of it as an excuse to allow that team to get a player without observing the correct rules.”
In his talk with Chongson, the commissioner said the Tanduay Light coach was remorseful, even admitting he intended to issue an apology to the teams that he may have offended.
“He explained to me that those teams (owners) are his friends from way back. Clearly, he apologized. In fact, he confided to me that even before he was invited by the PBA, he had intended to write them personally for the wrong choice of words and explained that (he wanted to point out that) they are new teams. He was really thinking of teams who have only stayed for a conference or two.
“He categorically told me that he didn’t mean that they are ‘fly-by-night corporations’ or ‘fly-by-night teams,” Salud said.
The commissioner also said he and Chongson talked about the statement the coach uttered about Hapee and its relationship with Manny V. Pangilinan.
“On the issue of another team supposedly not being independently run and being owned by another organization, he said that he may have been taken out of context. While it is true that he could have mentioned that, what he referred to really are the common players that those two organizations share dahil one organization (NLEX) took the slot of another organization (Hapee).
“And he and I agreed that both organizations are clearly capable of running a team independently of each other,” said Salud.