MERALCO would have loved to keep the services of veteran guard John Pinto, but at the same time, respects his right as a player to choose the team he wants to play for under the new PBA rule on unrestricted free agency.
Coach Norman Black disclosed there was an offer for a new two-year contract to the 31-year-old product of Arellano University, which Pinto declined.
Pinto has since moved to Barangay Ginebra where he was given a three-year deal.
The stocky 5-foot-11 guard from Davao City belongs to the 2014 Draft Class, the first batch of rookies who enjoyed the rights given to an unrestricted free agent under the seven-year rule.
“Nards exercised his right as an unrestricted free agent to move to the team of his choice under the rules and regulations of the PBA,” said Black.
"The Meralco team did make him an offer to stay with the team, but I imagine he decided to do what he thought was in his best interest.”
Pinto was acquired by the Bolts from Phoenix in exchange for big man Jason Ballesteros and a 2020 second-round pick before the start of Season 44.
He never got to play a single game for the Fuel Masters after being acquired in a separate trade from Blackwater for the services of Joseph Erioubu.
At Meralco, Pinto played a key role as part of the team’s deep backcourt, playing in his first finals stint during the 2019 Governors Cup which the Bolts lost to Barangay Ginebra, 4-1.
Vastly improved Pinto
Prior to his transfer to the Kings, he averaged 9.0 points, 5.5 assists, and 2.5 rebounds in two games with Meralco in the Governors Cup before games were halted due to the rising COVID-19 cases in the metropolis.
In the last Philippine Cup where Meralco advanced to the semis for the second straight season, Pinto normed 8.3 points, 3.1 rebounds, and 1.9 assists.
With the exit of Pinto, the Bolts will now make do with a backcourt consists of Chris Newsome, Aaron Black, Anjo Caram, and Bong Quinto.
“We thank him (Pinto) for his service and we will move on with the remaining guys in the lineup,” said Black.
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