HISTORY will be made in the PBA next year when the pro league rolls out its first batch of unrestricted free agents.
Under a landmark agreement initiated by the late Purefoods governor Ely Capacio, the PBA board of governors ruled that all players automatically become UFAs at the end of their seventh season in the league.
Since the rule wasn't applied retroactively, that meant players who make up the rookie draft class of 2014, led by top pick overall Stanley Pringle and No. 2 Kevin Alas, will be the first batch of players to benefit from the rule.
Previously, all PBA players with expired contracts are classified as restricted free agents - meaning their signing rights remained with their mother teams [the PBA just recently passed a rule that turns all players left unsigned by their mother teams into UFAs].
The UFA rule, therefore, is a game-changer once it takes effect at the end of the 2021 season.
However, a check by SPIN.ph showed that the jewel of the league's first batch of UFAs will no longer be, yes, unrestricted, by next season. Pringle has been signed to a fresh three-year contract by Barangay Ginebra, taking him out of the UFA market, sources said.
The dazzling Fil-Am guard, acquired by Ginebra in a trade with GlobalPort in 2019, is 34 years old, meaning the latest Ginebra contract would take him all the way to the end of the 2024 PBA season, by which time he would be 37.
Alas, like Pringle, signed a fresh three-year deal with the Road Warriors last September 2020 and will therefore be tied down to the contract until 2023.
Jewels of the UFA batch
With the rights to Pringle and Alas taken, two jewels remain from that 2014 draft class - NLEX guard Jericho Cruz [taken No. 9 in that draft] and Phoenix point guard Chris Banchero, who was picked at No. 5 by the Alaska Aces.
NLEX coach Yeng Guiao, who is also the team's general manager, confirmed that Cruz's contract will be expiring at the end of the season. A check with Phoenix also revealed Banchero - taken by the team in the Vic Manuel trade - is in the same boat.
Guiao, however, expressed confidence that the team can come to terms with Cruz on a new contract.
"I'm confident he'll want to stay," Guiao said.
As for Banchero, the high-scoring guard's name has popped up in a number of trade rumors the past few months that cast doubt on his continued stay in the Fuel Masters' camp.
Aside from the four, other members of the 2014 draft class who remain active in the PBA are the Semerad brothers Anthony and David, Matt Ganuelas Rosser, Juami Tiongson, Rodney Brondial, Jake Pascual, Rome Dela Rosa, Prince Caperal, Nards Pinto, Gab Banal, Frang Golla, Brian Heruela, Kenneth Ighalo, Paolo Taha, and Raul Soyud.
All will turn UFAs next season if they have no existing contracts.
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