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    COLUMN: Race to sign free-agent Chris Banchero down to two teams

    Jan 20, 2022
    Chris Banchero is the subject of a tug-of-war between two PBA teams.
    Chris Banchero is the subject of a tug-of-war between two PBA teams.
    PHOTO: PBA Images
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    CHICAGO - What was once thought to be a multi-team derby to acquire the services of impending free agent Chris Banchero has turned out to be a stiff two-team race.

    Multiple sources told SPIN.ph. that once his contract expires this January 31, Banchero's choices have been narrowed down to two - his mother team Phoenix Super LPG and a tenacious suitor, the Meralco Bolts.

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      And in a surprising twist, Phoenix, I am told by a team insider, is offering Banchero a multi-year package worth "way, way, way over the P500,000 a month salary cap."

      With Matthew Wright about to leave for the Japan B.League, Phoenix is determined not to lose another key player, a catastrophe that would quickly shove the burgeoning franchise in the abyss somewhere along Blackwater alley and Terrafirma boulevard.

      So the money that was set aside for Wright is now being thrown on top of the Banchero pile.

      Continue reading below ↓

      Filthy rich

      While Phoenix is an independent team, it is filthy rich like the SMC and MVP Group.

      Its parent company is Udenna, a conglomerate founded and owned by Dennis Uy, a close ally of president Rodrigo Duterte. According to Forbes, Uy is the 27th richest man in the Philippines with a net worth of $710 million.

      Continue reading below ↓
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      Money is obviously not an object for the Super LPG.

      So how exactly does a team go about with paying a player more than the rules allow?

      NO SWEAT.

      A former team executive told me that overpaying teams allegedly present a player with two contracts, one which shows only a P500,000 a month salary that they can show to the PBA and another for a separate deal, the kind that comes with the wink, wink.

      If indeed true, these are acts of chicanery, not illegality. And it leaves a poor taste on how we view the PBA.

      Continue reading below ↓

      Meralco, meanwhile, is in dire need of a point guard after John Pinto exercised his right to unrestricted free agency and fled to Ginebra last January 7.

      Minus Pinto, the Bolts are left without a natural point guard as both Chris Newsome and Aaron Black are best suited as shooting guards.

      Unless he wants to risk a tampering fine of P1 million, Meralco GM Paolo Trillo cannot talk to Banchero or his handlers. But starting on February 1, he can. I hope he has an unlimited plan.

      MORE FROM SPIN
      MORE FROM SPIN

        And though the Bolts do not necessarily have the same budget as their mother ship TNT, their governor is Al Panlilio, heir to the MVP throne. Funds will be made available to acquire Banchero and shore up a team that is constantly over performing.

        Just as he had spread his wings under Phoenix coach Topex Robinson,, I am enthralled at the idea of how Banchero will blossom with coach Norman Black whispering both basketball wisdom and life lessons unto his ears.

        Continue reading below ↓

        But I am also rooting for Phoenix to keep Banchero, if only to prove to all and sundry that an independent PBA team can swing with the big boys and play this so-called "under-the-table" game.

        Either way, Banchero is the biggest winner here. With his contract up, he chose the perfect time to belt out his A-game.

        JAPAN B LEAGUE UPDATE. Another PBA player is headed to Japan this July. He is in the process of tying some loose ends with his current team and when that business is concluded I can then tell you who it is.

        There are approximately 20 to 22 coaching jobs that will open up in the various divisions of the B.League next season.

        Here's hoping that former Thailand national team head coach Chris Daleo gets his well-deserved shot. As I've said all along, Daleo is a fine coaching gem that can help several PBA teams.

        Continue reading below ↓

        As for coaches Chito Victolero and Topex Robinson, get those resumes ready, sirs.

        We are now on Quento! Download the app to enjoy more articles and videos from SPIN.ph and other Summit Media websites.

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        Chris Banchero is the subject of a tug-of-war between two PBA teams.
        PHOTO: PBA Images
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