PBA chairman Ramon Segismundo said expansion team NLEX only has three options as the deadline for payment of its franchise fee fast approaches — push through with its participation in the pro league this season, delay its entry, or altogether withdraw.
Two other new teams, Blackwater/Ever Bilena and Kia Motors, have already paid a part of the franchise fee of P100 million to formalize their entry into Asia's first professional basketball league.
NLEX, which is eyeing its sixth PBA D-League title in the Foundations Cup, had sought an extension and was given until June 7 to fulfill the financial requirement, raising fears that it may yet abandon plans to enter the league in the wake of the limited concessions granted the expansion teams.
On Thursday, Segismundo laid down the options for NLEX.
“Ang options lang naman nila is to pay up front now, pay next year or third option, is they could say, we’re out of here (PBA),” Segismundo, who is also Meralco's board representative, told Spin.ph at the end of the monthly PBA board meeting at the league’s office in Libis, Quezon City.
But Segismundo said as far as the PBA is concerned, the NLEX squad, which is under the Metro Pacific Investments Group of Manny V. Pangilinan like Meralco, is already part of the league along with Blackwater/ Ever Bilena and Columbia Autocar Corp. - distributor of Kia Motors in the country.
“NLEX is already accepted. There’s a board resolution and minutes that they have been accepted in the league. It is just a question of when and how,” he said.
“The what has already been established. They have been accepted in the league, so abangan na lang ang karugtong,” added Segismundo.
When asked if reports that NLEX is possibly looking at buying an existing PBA franchise, Segismundo said he is not “privy to any possible talks.”
Meantime, PBA commissioner Chito Salud said NLEX’s request for a 30-day extension has a lot to do with the team management’s evaluation of the concessions given by the board to the three expansion teams.
“I do understand where they (NLEX) are coming from considering that NLEX is a champion team of the D-League and they would like to form a team that would be as competitive as NLEX is in the D-League,” Salud said.
The PBA board, in a recent meeting, approved a revised “Protect 12” scheme from the original “Protect 14” that had been previously laid down by the league, with a dispersal draft set to be held in July.
NLEX even wrote the league on behalf of the three new ballclubs seeking to be allowed to bring in at least five direct hires so it can form a competitive team.
The board however, denied the appeal, limiting the new ballclubs to the last three picks of the first round, from 11th to 13th, of the rookie draft set on August 24.