YOU'D think there's no way a professional basketball team like KIA, whose first order of business upon being accepted in the PBA was hire a boxer as head coach, can still surprise you, right?
Of all the wrong turns the car company has made over its first three seasons in the PBA, the ballclub's latest move to trade the No. 1 draft pick overall to San Miguel, basically for a song, takes the cake. The mother of all bum deals, if ever there was one.
KIA has changed names from Sorento to Carnival to Enforcer to Floodbuster to Picanto - and made just as many questionable trades over those three seasons while losing all but 28 of 101 games and earning a grand total of one playoff appearance.
Over that same span, the ballclub managed to get its hands on players like Troy Rosario, Bradwyn Guinto, Aldrech Ramos, Mike DiGregorio, John Pinto, Joseph Eriobu and KG Canaleta - enough talent, really, to form a competitive team, that is, had KIA not found a way to lose each one of them.
After all those head-scratching deals, you'd think KIA can no longer outdo itself, right? Wrong again.
The best way for an expansion franchise to build a team from the ground up is through the rookie draft. Yet KIA wasted its first-ever draft selection in 2014 on boxer Manny Pacquiao, and, not content with that, drafted Pacquiao's cousin Rene as well in the later rounds.
For reasons known only to them, KIA officials traded No. 2 pick overall Rosario to TNT the following year. KIA did land Guinto, a steal in the second round at 14th overall, back in 2015, but promptly gave him away to NLEX for unknown Jeckster Apinan and Reden Celda.
What it plans to pull off next has understandably drawn indignation, simply because the trade proposal is brazenly one-sided in the Beermen's favor.
It is mind-boggling enough that KIA is willing to give up the chance to sign Christian Standhardinger, a 6-foot-7 Fil-German who, judging from how he played with Gilas Pilipinas, can easily become the third best big man in the PBA after June Mar Fajardo and Greg Slaughter the moment he comes in.
Standhardinger is deceptively strong, tough, and has sure hands around the basket. The 27-year-old rookie is definitely no project, having had extensive experience in the US NCAA and Europe, and therefore can make an immediate impact for whichever team he plays for.
And you're giving him up for what? No more than a bunch of benchwarmers.
That the Commissioner's Office continues to sit on the trade proposal instead of dumping it straight to the garbage bin where it belongs is beyond me. There's no way this trade can be acceptable unless SMB adds anyone of its main assets - Marcio Lassiter, Arwind Santos, or Fajardo - to the package.
Commissioner Chito Narvasa, speaking to reporters on Tuesday, vowed to make a judgment that will be for the good of the league and its member teams. But had he bothered to listen to KIA's own head coach, Chris Gavina - “I’d love to keep (the draft pick), but you know, there’s some higher powers that be that might not agree" - he need not look any further to find proof that the 'good of the team' was the least of the concerns when this trade proposal was cooked up.
More than anything else, it's parity in the league that will be greatly compromised if this deal is allowed to go through.
The pro league in its present state is already having a hard time maintaining a semblance of parity when it has six ballclubs, or half its membership, belonging to rival groups while long-established rules governing sister teams are interpreted loosely.
When you see an independent team like KIA agreeing to a trade as lopsided as this one, you can no longer blame fans if they feel like they're being taken for a ride.
Long-overdue expansion, which led to the arrival of KIA and Blackwater, has opened fresh opportunities for displaced players, but at the same time widened the gap between the big and small teams - an imbalance that has yet to correct itself three years down the road.
And when one member team's commitment to winning comes under serious question, that imbalance is bound to get worse long before it gets better.