With a growing cast of 'balik imports' in the 2016 PBA Governors’ Cup, it begs the question: Is the league already lagging behind in terms of recruitment?
In the coming season-ending tourney, seven out of 12 teams will feature returning imports, namely Marqus Blakely (Star), Arizona Reid (San Miguel), Paul Harris (Ginebra), Bill Walker (NLEX), Eric Dawson (Blackwater), Dominic Sutton (GlobalPort) and Meralco’s Allen Durham, who used to play for the Barako Bull Energy.
One possible explanation behind this trend is the compensation that pales in comparison to other leagues abroad. No doubt that with the current $20,000 a month maximum pay for an import imposed by the PBA, high-caliber western cagers would normally snub an offer from local teams in favor of those from China, Europe, Korea and even Middle East, which boast of salary caps ten times larger than the Philippines pro league.
But long-time import agent Sheryl Reyes argues that the short Governors’ Cup, which will only run for less than two months, is the key factor as it forced some teams to go for tried-and-tested reinforcements than gamble on new ones.
“Short conference kasi eh, it’s easier to go with familiar faces, kasi kabisado na nila ang league. It’s a short season. Para hindi na sila (teams) mag-adjust, kumukuha sila ng mga dating lumaro na rito,” said Reyes.
“It’s some sort of security [measure] na rin for the teams kasi magastos ang import. Airfare, guaranteed contract and all, lahat yan ilalabas mo. Pag nagpalit ka, babayaran mo lahat yun, halos doble ang gastos,” she added.
Reyes also pointed out the the coming Governor's Cup will feature some of the best imports from the previous three seasons, and these 'balik imports' have all played in top-rated leagues around the world after their PBA campaigns.
“Mga malalakas na import ang babalik ngayon, I can say na they’re the best of the best. Look at the list halos lahat yan galing sa mga past PBA finals,” she said.
“And what’s good about it, karamihan sa mga babalik, may bitbit na additional credentials,” added Reyes, who noted that some of the returnees have upped their game after their standout stints in the PBA.
Walker played for the Miami Heat shortly after his stint with the Alaska Aces in 2014; Sutton won an NBA D-League title last year, while Harris just concluded a two-year stint in Turkey.
“Dun mo makikita na very active ang mga past imports natin na papasok,” she said.
Reyes also bared that apart from the NBA Summer League, no other major tournaments that require imports are being played in the next three months.
“Walang malalaking liga ngayon, kaya nga matuwa tayo kasi babalik yung ibang mga marquee imports natin from the past,” said Reyes.
“Maraming available na top names, pero they’re very expensive and they refuse to work during summertime. Buti nga na convince ko pa si Jason Maxiell to play for Talk N Text,” she added while thanking US based agent Andrew Vye helping bring over the former Detroit Pistons forward as one of the big-time newcomers to the PBA.
Meanwhile, the Rain or Shine Elastopainters are said to be setting their sights on bringing in wide-bodied former Ginebra import Dior Lowhorn. But the 2016 Commissioner's Cup champs, sources say, are also looking at Gabe Norwood’s former George Mason University teammate Ryan Pearson.
Aside from Maxiell, another confirmed newcomer is Georgia Tech fresh grad James White, who will play for the Mahindra Enforcers.
The Alaska Aces, on the other hand, are still searching for an import after dropping plans to hire former Rice University standout Mike Harris, who is a mainstay of the Sichuan Blue Whales in the Chinese Basketball League.
The Phoenix Fuel Masters are also import-less as of now but are closing in on a deal for NBA D-League superstar Deandre Liggins, which will be known tomorrow.
Again, here’s a quick look at the list of PBA teams and their confirmed and considered imports.
Ginebra – Paul Harris
NLEX - Bill Walker
Mahindra – James White
Talk n Text – Jason Maxiell
Blackwater – Eric Dawson
San Miguel – Arizona Reid
Star – Marqus Blakely
GlobalPort – Dominic Sutton
Meralco – Allen Durham
Rain or Shine – negotiating with Ryan Pearson, Dior Lowhorn and 2 others
Phoenix –Deandre Liggens (still finalizing details)
Alaska – still finalizing details