NOW it can be told.
The sudden trading of players and the short-term contract offered to some others were merely signs of things to come for the proud Alaska franchise.
On Wednesday, Alaska announced it is leaving the PBA following a 35-year campaign marked by both success and heartaches.
The past few months saw the Aces lose a couple of players such as JVee Casio, Barkley Ebona, Gab Banal, and Rodney Brondial, while offering contracts as short as a one-conference deal to Gilas rookie draftee Allyn Bulanadi.
As it is, SPIN.ph learned only Jeron Teng, and rookies Ben Adamos and Taylor Brown have existing contracts that go beyond this season.
Before team owner Fred Uytengsu talked to PBA commissioner Willie Marcial and chairman Ricky Vargas on Wednesday morning, he had a zoom meeting with the entire team along with Jeff Cariaso and his coaching staff.
“To be honest their reaction was silence. And I think because they were very stunned with the news,” said Uytengsu, who presided over the virtual press conference announcing Alaska’s decision to leave the league.
“I know there were rumors about what’s going to happen with the franchise, but something like this probably isn’t in the forefront, and they’re probably talking about the pep talk about tomorrow night’s game,” he added, referring to the Aces’ scheduled Governors Cup game on Thursday against Rain or Shine.
Just before the start of the season-ending conference, the Aces pulled off a baffling trade by sending Casio and Ebona to Blackwater for Mike Tolomia and a 2022 second-round pick.
The Aces then reportedly offered Banal only a one-conference contract which the 6-foot-3 forward rejected, prompting him to take his act to TNT Tropang Giga instead by signing a two-year deal as an unrestricted free agent.
Alaska did offer Brondial a two-year contract, but still lost him to San Miguel after the big man out of Adamson opted to exercise his rights as a free agent.
Just last week, Bulanadi came to terms with the team after a two-year stint with the Gilas Pilipinas pool. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed but the rookie was given contract that's only good for one season, sources told SPIN.ph.
Uytengsu was very apologetic and vowed to compensate the team in whatever way it can do.
“There is never a good time to break this news whether it's going to be a month from now, a month before. Something like this was going to be a difficult concept to appreciate, and I know their immediate concern was what will happen to me and my career,” an emotional Uytengsu said.
“So Dickie (Bachmann) and Jeff (Cariaso) will be going to the players and try to help them. We’re going to do everything we can do,” he added. “But put yourself in their shoes. Before we had this, I rehearsed this a dozen times, thinking how do you make this palatable.
“And I’m sorry about that,” said Uytengsu.