ANTIPOLO CITY – Jericho Cruz has a pending offer from NLEX heading to the expiration of his contract by the end of the month and into unrestricted free agency.
But at the same time, he’s been given the freedom to take up a better offer elsewhere.
In a talk with NLEX coach Yeng Guiao, who is also the team’s basketball operations manager, Cruz was assured management will respect his decision if ever he decides not to re-sign with the franchise and play for another ballclub instead.
“Binigyan niya naman ako ng blessing na if I want to go, I can go," said the 31-year-old guard following NLEX’s 109-100 victory in overtime against Rain or Shine Friday in the PBA Governors Cup at the Ynares Center.
The former Adamson star was mum about his plans in free agency, although sources told SPIN.ph he is set to reunite with his college coach Leo Austria at San Miguel.
"He supports me, kaya sobrang tuwa ko na iba yung pakiramdam na, alam mo yung tatay mo ang dating nung kay coach Yeng,” he added. “Yung respeto ko sa kanya (Guiao), hindi pa rin mawawala. Hanggang dulo na yun.”
Acquired by the Road Warriors from TNT in a three-team trade three years ago, Cruz has been a huge part of NLEX in its past campaigns, more so now that they're on track to clinching one of four twice-to-beat advantages in the playoffs.
He averaged 21.5 points in the previous two outings of NLEX and finished with 13 points, six rebounds, and two steals in the win over the Elasto Painters that raised the Road Warriors’ record to 7-3 overall.
Those numbers, according to coach Guiao, will surely be missed should Cruz opted not to stay with the team.
“Mami-miss namin siya sakali kasi ang ganda ng nilalaro niya the past few games. So we’ll see. Of course, we’re hoping that he stays with us, but we’ll see what happens,” said the NLEX coach.
Feeling is mutual
The feeling is mutual, according to Cruz.
“Kahit ako naman mami-miss ko yung mga mura ni coach Yeng, e,” he said in between laughs.
“Pero sabi niya naman sa akin you do what’s best for your family, kasi hindi na tayo bumabata ngayon,” Cruz added.
The tough-playing guard said he’ll talk to his wife and family on the best available plan for him, but said he’ll forever be grateful to the NLEX organization, adding he’ll cherish the victory of the Road Warriors over the Elasto Painters.
“At the end of the day, I’m thankful, blessed ako na binigyan ako ng NLEX ng opportunity to represent the company,” he said.
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