UNLESS he’s given his release papers or left unprotected in the free agent market, Greg Slaughter’s playing rights will remain with Barangay Ginebra.
The PBA Commissioner's Office made that point very clear in the wake of Slaughter’s stunning decision to take an indefinite break after his previous three-year contract with the Kings expired.
Asked about Slaughter's options as a restricted free agent, Commissioner Willie Marcial said Ginebra will keep the rights on the seven-footer even if he doesn’t have an existing contract or decides to take a break from playing.
The 31-year-old center made the move in light of reports that he was about to be traded to NorthPort in exchange for Christian Standhardinger.
True or not, once he decides to return to the league, Slaughter has to deal with no other ballclub but Ginebra.
“His rights remain with Ginebra. Kahit mawala siya ng isa o dalawang taon, pero once bumalik siya, nasa Ginebra pa rin yung playing rights niya,” Marcial said.
So far, Slaughter hasn’t sought mediation by the league nor did anyone from Barangay Ginebra management seek the help of the Commissioner’s Office on the matter, Marcial said.
But Marcial said the rule is clear on the matter.
“Yung rights talaga nasa Ginebra. Not unless i-release siya unconditionally, na hindi naman siguro gagawin ng team,” he said.
And yes, the Kings can even trade Slaughter even though he has no existing contract and is on a basketball sabbatical.
The problem is, would there be a team willing to make that gamble?
“Yun ang question diyan, may kukuha ba?” stressed the commissioner. “Pero kung iti-trade, puwede. Basta ba may takers.”
Slaughter actually need not go far to look for a similar case.
Former Ginebra teammate Chris Ellis was traded by the Kings to Blackwater in 2017 for the services of Art Dela Cruz. Ellis showed up in practice with the Elite but later went on a leave of absence, left the country, and never returned, not having played a single game for Blackwater. He was last seen playing for Luang Prabang basketball team in the Thailand Basketball League last year.
But should he decide to return and resume his PBA career, the 31-year-old Ellis will have to sit down and talk with Blackwater.
“Ang rights ni Ellis kasi nasa Blackwater pa din,” said Marcial.
Back in 1993, Benjie Paras had more or less the same experience. The league's only rookie-MVP demanded a trade to Ginebra as he sat out an entire conference with Formula Shell. He ended up staying with the Turbo Chargers.
Two decades later, Asi Taulava, unable to reach an agreement with Meralco on a new contract, moved to Asean Basketball League (ABL) side San Miguel. A season later he only got to transfer to another team after Meralco traded him to Air21 for Mike Cortez.
And that holds true in Slaughter’s case.