JAMES Forrester recently made a brief PBA comeback by way of TnT Katropa in the 2019 Philippine Cup. While he never got to see action in the two games he was on the Katropa bench, the change in status from practice player to a member of the active roster was certainly a world apart.
The promotion also meant an escalation in his salary.
By simply being activated into the team roster, Forrester became eligible to receive the minimum player's salary of P70,000 under the Uniform Player’s Contract (UPC) which the team had to submit to the PBA Commissioner’s Office.
As a practice player, the former first-round draft pick of Barangay Ginebra (taken at No. 4 overall, ahead of Terrence Romeo) was getting a monthly pay of at least P30,000 in an agreement sealed without the benefit of a UPC.
“Once ang practice player is activated and sits on the bench (during games), kahit hindi siya ginagamit, he should be getting the regular minimum salary of P70,000 with accompanying UPC,” explained longtime players’ agent Danny Espiritu.
Forrester, 29, was in the active roster during TnT’s games against San Miguel and Meralco, but found himself being relegated to the reserve list in the team’s next outing against Magnolia.
Does it mean then he will revert back to his previous salary as practice player?
“Usually sa ganyang mga kaso, the player is already considered part of a team’s reserve list, so dapat ang salary niya remains the same,” stressed Espiritu. “Although he still practices with the team, technically reserve player na siya.”
It's easy to spot practice players as well as those on the reserve list. They usually sit either on the tailend or behind th bench during games. They're practically on the doorstep of a career in the PBA.
But financially, they are not doing too badly.
Unlke the NBA, the PBA doesn’t have a veteran’s minimum. What it has is a maximum pay for veterans [P420,000 a month] and rookies [which as raised to P200,000 a month this season]. It is also understood that P70,000 a month is the minimum for players signed to a Uniform Player's Contract.
Everything else depends on the negotiations between team and player, or in most cases their agents.
“Meron lang talaga yung maximum and minimum pay sa mga rookies and star players,” said Espiritu, who has been a player's agent for over three decades and still has the most number of PBA players in his stable.
While practice players and reserves do not make as much money as the stars, they sometimes receive similar perks, like won-game bonuses, for example.
There are even those who also get to collect championship bonuses, as was the case with big man Jericho De Guzman when he was still with Barangay Ginebra.
Of course, that depends on the generosity of a player’s mother ballclub.
“Puwedeng may bonus, puwede ring namang wala,” said Espiritu. “Kung ano yung normal (winning) bonus, usually kalahati ang nakukuha ng mga practice players. Pero depende talaga yun sa team na pinaglalaruan mo.”
Aside from that, practice players can augment their income by moonlighting in smaller leagues such as the PBA D-League or the Maharlika Pilipinas Basketball League (MPBL), so long as their schedule allows it.
“Meron ibang (practice) players receiving the minimum salary (P30,000) na naglalaro din sa D-League or sa MPBL. Pero siyempre pinapaalam nila yun sa mother ballclub nila,” according to Espiritu.
In such cases, players should make sure they are always present in every practice of his PBA team. Otherwise, necessary deductions will be made on his salary.
“Basta kailangan kapag practice nandun ka, Kung wala, pro-rated ka kasi, kaya bawas sa suweldo mo,” Espiritu said.
But the most important part of being a practice player or reserve? You're knocking on the door and one step away from becoming an active PBA player.
So near yet so far.