CHICAGO - One of the PBA's brightest stars, whose credentials include an All-Star appearance and multiple Gilas Pilipinas stints, is now officially a free agent.
Unattached to any team. Unbound by any contract.
But is Robert Bolick really a free man?
Well, that's where his story gets kinda complicated.
Picked No.3 overall in the 2018 draft, the 6-foot-1, 178-pound sniper only has nearly five years of service in the league, still needing at least two full years to acquire the coveted unrestricted free agent status.
Which means NorthPort Batang Pier still owns his rights in the PBA as a restricted free agent.
For those keeping score, the 27-year old Bolick's contract expired at the end of the just-concluded Governor's Cup. His previous one-year deal fell under the "automatic extension" file.
THREADING THE NEEDLE
A source familiar with the situation told me there are only two ways Bolick can migrate to another PBA team.
One is that if NorthPort doesn't tender him an offer, or if NorthPort gives him an unconditional release, both of which are as unlikely as Kume Marcial and Chot Reyes resigning from their current posts.
Fortunately for Bolick, the labor chains that tie him domestically do not extend beyond the PBA's jurisdiction.
Under FIBA rules, because he has no live contract, Bolick is an "international free agent" who can take his talents overseas without fear of any consequences and certainly without the hassle and indignity of having to beg the PBA for a clearance.
EENIE MEENIE MINEY MO WHERE WOULD ROBERT BOLICK GO?
The PBA can attempt to keep Bolick inside its fences, but that forcible action would flirt with laws concerning involuntary servitude and human rights violations.
Given the current climate where neighboring Asian leagues are thriving, and in most cases, surpassing the PBA in both economic and popularity growth, Bolick has more destinations than a travel agency.
The Japan B.League tops that list. He has a standing offer to play there for the princely sum of $22,000 a month plus the usual perks that include a free apartment, the free use of a car, free dining at team-affiliated gyms, et cetera.
Bolick, who averaged 21.5 points, 5.4 rebounds and 6.1 assists in seven games played last conference, can also tether his skills in Taiwan where Jason Brickman is ruling, or in Korea where Rhenz Abando is fast making a name.
And then there's always the PBA.
For the sake of his mental health, though, he must leave NorthPort.
The Batang Pier have zero titles, zero semifinal appearances and their record since entering the PBA in 2012 is a horrid 120-214, a "success" rate of 35.9 percent. And they were 3-8 in this year's Governors' Cup.
How much more losing can Bolick take?
Time to pack up your bags, Robert. You don't have to like sushi to love Japan. The weather out there is great, cherry blossoms in the spring, warm sunshine in the autumn and white snow during winter.
The people are nice, too.
And the basketball they play in the B.League looks more exciting than in the PBA.