TNT pulled the trigger on a three-team deal on Thursday, affording the franchise a chance to address two problems hounding its immediate future—including one particularly caused by an on-leave star.
In a deal approved by the PBA, the Tropang Giga will get NLEX’s fourth overall selection in Sunday’s Rookie Draft, the Road Warriors will acquire Blackwater mainstays Roi Sumang and Don Trollano and last year’s second pick Maurice Shaw while the Elite, which served as the conduit team for the two sister squads, will get sweet-shooting guard Simon Enciso, scrappy forward David Semerad and future picks.
“The deal was already being talked about even before I got here as a means to upgrade the roster,” returning champion coach Chot Reyes told the Inquirer shortly after the deal was announced by the league.
But it could not have been approved at a better time, when the Tropang Giga were left reeling by the announcement of star swingman Ray Parks Jr. that he was taking a sabbatical.
“[The deal] becomes even more significant, as it allows us to address the big hole left by Ray’s absence,” Reyes added.
TNT originally had no picks in the first two rounds of this year’s draft, owing to the past deals the franchise had made in a bid to assemble a talented cast—one it got during the 2020 PBA season, but which fell short in delivering a title.
Reyes said the kind of player TNT hopes to tab is simply “someone who can help address Ray’s absence.”
NLEX also benefited from the swap, especially with Sumang, a spitfire playmaker who provides the Road Warriors a safety net should the team allow Kiefer Ravena to opt out of his contract to play overseas.
Ravena has intimated that he wants to test the waters overseas, but is currently tied up with the Road Warriors until 2023. The only way Ravena can leave the team is if the PBA and NLEX give him the go-signal.
“He has an offer in Japan. It was a really good offer and he was thinking about it. But of course, there are things that are going to make that reality a bit of a problem,” said the tough-talking Yeng Guiao, who also serves as NLEX’s president of basketball operations.
‘Cannot just leave’
“A couple of days ago, he said he was trying to complete his papers, visa going to Japan just in case it materializes. I said OK, at least when your papers are there, then maybe you can go back to the NLEX management and to the PBA and see if they’ll allow you to go,” Guiao went on.
“I think that’s going to be very important, he cannot just leave. He has to be given permission to play in Japan.”
The gutsy Trollano will also boost NLEX on both ends of the floor while Shaw is a roll of the dice; at 6-foot-9, he gives the team a lot of ceiling, but he’s 35 and has a history of back problems. Shaw hardly played in his rookie year because of his injuries, but said he still had a lot to show.
“[T]his was not something anybody expected from me, especially myself. But I think I can come back bigger and stronger. Wait until you see me next year,” Shaw told reporters last year.
Aside from the arrival of several tested players, NLEX still gets to pick at third, which projections say could be San Beda star and National Collegiate Athletic Association Most Valuable Player Calvin Oftana.
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