IT’S tough to leave a team as great as Ginebra San Miguel, but suiting up for Air21 again is like heading home for KG Canaleta.
On Thursday, PBA Commissioner Chito Salud finally approved the seven-player trade involving Ginebra, Petron and Air21, sealing the deal that will have the five-time slam dunk champion reunited with the same team that picked him sixth overall during the 2005 rookie draft.
The trade also had Petron’s Noy Baclao rejoining the Express along with Rob Reyes in exchange for Air21’s Magi Sison, Paulo Hubalde, and the team’s second-round pick in 2014. Baclao was selected by the Express as the top overall pick in the 2010 draft.
Canaleta, meanwhile, was sent in a package along with guard John Wilson by the Kings for Elmer Espiritu and Air21’s first-round pick next year.
SMC Group sports operation head Noli Eala cited "salary cap, spreading minutes, future buildup, and players’ growth" as the reasons on why Ginebra and Petron had to pull the trigger on the transaction.
Canaleta understands the situation and, like a good soldier, is ready to follow the command. But the high-leaper said he will surely miss the entire Ginebra team and its die-hard supporters.
“To be honest, I’m a bit sad coz napamahal sa sa akin ang Ginebra, my teammates and all the stuffs, and especially the millions of fans ng team,” said the high-leaping forward out of University of the East in a text message all the way from the United Kingdom, where he is currently on vacation.
But Canaleta knows trades are part of a basketball player’s life as he himself had bounced from one team to another in his eight-year pro career.
Then again, he said it’s just unfortunate this had to happen just when he has started to settle down with the Kings, whom he helped bail out in several crucial games during the course of their campaign last season.
“But this is part of my job,” he said.
As a consolation, he’ll be returning to his original PBA team, with which he came close to winning a championship during the 2008 Fiesta Cup, only to lose, ironically, in the deciding Game Seven against Barangay Ginebra.
“Air21 to me is like going back to where I belong,” Canaleta said. “Happy to work with them as always.”