AIR21 on Friday clarified reports that Joseph Yeo is bound for Ginebra, saying the high-scoring Express guard's return to the San Miguel Corp. organization is a pre-agreed deal that the new owner of the PBA franchise will have to honor in the event of a sale.
Spin.ph has reported that Yeo is bound for Ginebra and Air21 teammate Sean Anthony headed for Meralco under deals sealed by Air21, which is in talks for the sale of its PBA franchise to Metro Pacific Investments Corp. under the NLEX banner.
However, Air21 governor Lito Alvarez stressed the team is prohibited from entering any player transaction now that it has confirmed it is in talks for the sale of its PBA franchise under a rule the league board instituted after the sale of the Powerade team to GlobalPort in 2012.
“Lock, stock and barrel na kasi kami sa (sale ng PBA) franchise. Ibig sabihin nun, pag may ibinebenta nang team, hindi na pwedeng mag-trade ng players 'yun (dahil) haharangin na siya ng PBA,” said Alvarez, a former league chairman.
“Sa kaso namin, as early as two weeks ago, kinonfirm ko na na may discussions na kami ng NLEX. So naka-monitor na sa PBA 'yun, hindi na kami i-a-allow na mag-trade. May ruling na sa PBA na ganun na pagka may discussion na bentahan, controlled na ng PBA 'yung team (na ibebenta).”
Alvarez, however, confirmed that he has gentleman's agreements with the SMC organization in the case of Yeo and the PLDT group on the part of Anthony that the two players won't be traded for one year or returned to their former organizatons in the event of a sale.
Those pre-agreed conditions, Alvarez said, were included in the negotiations for the sale of the Air21 ballclub and should be assumed and executed by the new owners once a sale pushes through.
Yeo was acquired by Air21 from San Miguel Beer (formerly Petron) in a swap for Mark Isip in September last year while Anthony came on board through the Nino Canaleta trade with Talk 'N Text this season.
“May gentleman’s agreement kasi kami dyan. Like yung case ni Asi (Taulava), nakuha ko sa Meralco pero hindi ko pwedeng i-trade sa iba for a period of one year. 'Yan din ang case ni Joseph Yeo,” said Alvarez.
“So assuming na kunin kami ng NLEX, nasa sa kanila na yun kung paano nila i-te-trade si Joseph, kung pick ba o existing players ang kapalit,” he explained.
In the case of Anthony, Alvarez explained that his reported transfer to Meralco only surfaced because the Manny V. Pangilinan group has long been negotiating for the return of the gungho forward.
“Matagal nang inaawitan sa amin ng Meralco 'yan. Kaya nga lang sabi ko nga, locked na ang team namin. Hindi na pwedeng mag-trade so NLEX ang bahalang mag-trade sa Meralco kay Anthony,” he said.
“Pero dahil sister teams 'yun, kailangang humanap sila ng conduit,” added the Air21 official.
Alvarez explained that NLEX was already made aware of the ‘sub-clause’ with regards to Anthony and Yeo when they started negotiating for the takeover of the Air21 franchise.
“Oo, alam ng NLEX 'yun. Sinabi ko sa kanila yun, kasi syempre pagka-ganyan (bentahan), open disclosure yan eh. Kailangang transparent ka eh,” he said.
“Sabi ko nga sa kanila (NLEX), lahat ng players makukuha nila except Joseph Yeo, kasi mayroon akong one-year na prohibition to trade Joseph Yeo, so kung kailangang pag-usapan nila how to go about it,” he said.
When Alvarez informed the Air21 players of the team's impending sale to NLEX, he himself informed Yeo that he will likely end up at Ginebra - the one team among the three SMC ballclubs where he will likely fit in.
“Ulitin ko, dahil alam na ng PBA na ibebenta kami, hindi na kami pwedeng mag-trade. Lock, stock and barrel ang bentahan nito. Buo dapat naming ipasa sa next owner,” he said.
In the unlikely circumstance that talks over the takeover of NLEX of the Air21 franchise collapses, Alvarez said his organization will be more than willing to keep Yeo and Anthony.
“Nagsabi na ko sa kanila (NLEX) ng presyo ng gusto ko, ang hininhintay ko na lang is tawag nila or announcement nila (na bibilin na nga nila kami). That means, ina-accept nila,” he said.
Is there still a chance that the sale won't happen, Alvarez was asked.
“Kung hindi matuloy 'yan, kaya naman namin na ituloy ito (franchise) eh. Hindi naman ako ang nag-offer ng Air21, sila (NLEX) ang lumapit sa akin,” he said.