JUST because Purefoods is currently undermanned and struggling in the PBA Philippine Cup doesn't mean the team is now initiating trade negotiations especially involving rookie big man Jake Pascual of Barako Bull.
Team governor Rene Pardo made this clear in the wake of persistent talks that the Hotshots are after the services of Pascual to fill the void left by injured sophomore wingman Ian Sangalang.
The talk has taken on a life of its own, especially since Barako Bull has long faced accusations that it is serving as a 'farm team' of ballclubs under the San Miguel Corp. umbrella.
Pardo, however, was quick to issue a denial.
“Wala hindi totoo yan. Nababasa ko nga sa mga social media yan. Wala kaming inaayos na ganyan,” said Pardo, who nonetheless added that he respects the skills and talent of the 6-foot-5 former San Beda stalwart who is currently one of Barako Bull’s inside threats.
Sangalang suffered a partial tear on his ACL and MCL during the team’s season opening game against Alaska. He is expected to be out for the entire All-Filipino conference as the injury requires a rest period of six to eight months.
But Pardo said the defending champions are not really inclined to seek trades at this juncture, wary of messing up the chemistry of a team that has won the league's last four championships.
“Ayaw namin pumasok sa trade as much as possible. Like yang case na nawala si Ian, may nakuha naman kami sa free agent. So we might as well resort to it rather than seek a trade,” he said.
Out of the free agent market, the Hotshots were able to tap veteran big man Don Allado, who also once donned the Purefoods uniform. The power forward out of De La Salle already played his first game with the franchise last Sunday, an 87-80 loss to league leader San Miguel.
“Pinapirman na namin ng two conferences si Don Allado. Siya na muna ang gaganap sa role na iiwan ni Ian,” said Pardo. “Hanggang sa makabalik si Ian.”
“Ayaw naming guluhin masyado ang chemistry ng team. Kaya role player lang kinuha namin. Saka si Allado galing sa triangle ni Tim Cone ng ilang taon yan, tapos naglaro pa sa akin ng two years sa Purefoods yan,” he added.
With Allado’s arrival, Sangalang has been relegated to the protected injured list (15th man), forcing the team to drop former reserve Lester Alvarez to unrestricted free agency.
Pardo likewise stressed that help is coming Purefoods’ way with the imminent return of star forward Marc Pingris from a two-week vacation following his offseason stint with Gilas Pilipinas.
“Pabalik na rin si Ping. Nagbalik ensayo na siya nung Friday pa. Dapat hanggang Sunday pa bakasyon niya. Kaso nung nalamang na-injured si Ian, nag ensayo na ulit siya,” Pardo added.
“Gusto na ngang lumaro ni Ping kahapon. Kaso hindi namin pinayagan. Kasi gusto namin makapagpahinga pa siya,” he added. “Walang injury si Ping, he can play anytime.”
Here's a podcast of the full interview with Rene Pardo:
But the Purefoods governor made it clear the franchise is not closing its doors on trade deal, especially if an irresistible offer is laid down on the table.
“We can’t say naman na we are not trading unless may na-offer na magandang trade. Siyempre you can never say never. Pag may magandang offer, siyempre, titignan namin,” Pardo said.
“Pero sa ngayon, wala talagang trade offer on the table.”
Pardo disclosed that superstar James Yap might already play in the Hotshots’ next game as the 32-year-old pride of Escalante, Negros Occidental has already recovered from a painful calf muscle.
“Sumakit lang yung calf muscle niya nung Sabado, kaya pinagpahinga ni Tim (last game). Gusto ngang lumaro rin kaso di na namin pinayagan,” revealed Pardo.