TEAM glory can definitely be more appealing than individual success.
The veteran playmaker had been one of the Bolts' best players in 2021. In his last conference with Meralco in that year’s PBA Governors’ Cup, a fitter Pinto showed a glimpse of what he can do when given the keys to the offense as he averaged nine points, 5.5 assists, 2.5 boards, and one steal in 27.8 minutes in the first two games of the elimination round.
But before he could sustain his showing, Pinto jumped ship at the turn of 2022, becoming one of the first players to avail the perks of unrestricted free agency.
A year later, the 32-year-old playmaker looked back on his decision to decline the Bolts’ two-year extension offer to sign the Gin Kings’ three-year deal.
Nards Pinto on leaving Meralco for Ginebra
“Una sa lahat, sino bang aayaw sa Ginebra, ‘di ba?” Pinto said on SPIN Zoom In. “Lahat naman siguro ng players gusto sa Ginebra, gustong magka-chance maglaro sa Ginebra. Gusto ko lang din ng bagong…para bago naman. Tsaka Ginebra eh, hirap tanggihan nun.”
Asked if Ginebra had a bigger offer than the Bolts, Pinto could only laugh it off.
“Grabe ka naman. Mayayari tayo dyan,” the 32-year-old Davao native said with a chuckle.
Pinto insisted he had no ill will toward the Bolts, the MVP franchise that gave him the biggest break of his career yet.
“Wala naman akong ano sa Meralco. Sobrang blessed ko din na kinuha nila ako that time nung galing ako sa Blackwater,” Pinto said. “Tsaka okay naman. Nagpaalam naman din ako ng maayos sa kanila.”
But as he transferred to a perennial finals tormentor in Ginebra, Pinto saw his playing time dwindle, although he remained a fixture in the rotation. In the recent Commissioner’s Cup Finals against Bay Area, Pinto averaged 1.8 points, 1.7 boards, 1.7 assists, and 0.5 steal in 12.5 minutes in six games.
But those numbers are the least of his worries as the former Arellano star has carved out a reputation as one of the league’s best perimeter defenders.
“Sobrang blessed ako na kinukuha nila ako. Thankful ako sa mga taong nakapaligid na kumuha sa’kin sa Ginebra,” Pinto said.
A year and two championships later, it definitely looks like he made the right decision.
Check out the full SPIN Zoom In episode with Nards Pinto below.