Meralco Bolts to assess 11 expiring contracts by season’s end

MANILA, Philippines - The Meralco Bolts have 11 players whose contracts are set to expire after the on-going PBA Governors’ Cup, but the team plans to assess each of them after the season before deciding whom to renew and return for next season.

Bolts team manager Paolo Trillo said that there are no current negotiations for the players with expiring deals as the team continues to evaluate all their talents on a game-by-game basis.

Meralco is off to a 2-3 start in the Governors’ Cup following their 105-99 defeat to the Barako Bull Energy on Sunday, May 24. 

“I won’t get into their names anymore but we have about 11 guys expiring and we want to assess the whole team at the end of the season and then we’ll decide what we want to do,” Trillo tells Rappler. 

“So right now we’re just assessing all the players based on their performance each and every night. That’s what we’re going to do at the end of the season. We’ll assess.” 

One of the players whose contract is up is veteran scorer Gary David, whose last deal was a P15.1 million contract extension he signed with Powerade in 2012.  

David, whose first contract as a PBA rookie in 2004 was a Php 70,000-per-month deal, is currently averaging 13.5 points per game this season - the lowest mark in his career since he put up 9.9 points per game for Air21 in the 2005-2006 season. 

The names of the other players whose contracts are up after the Governors' Cup were not disclosed by Trillo. 

The 36-year-old David is also averaging just 27.1 minutes a game this season, his lowest in 9 years. There have been mentions that the dip in his playing time is due to the arrival of Japanese import Seiya Ando, who’s averaged 11.3 points in 4 games with the Bolts.

Since coming to the Philippines, Ando has played more minutes than David in two of 3 games, with David playing 28 and Ando playing 27 against NLEX. Against Purefoods and Barako Bull, David played 28 and 20 minutes while Ando played 37 and 32, respectively. 

When asked if Ando’s arrival or their contract situation is affecting David’s or any of the other expiring players’ play, Trillo said that the guys up for extension should use the Governors’ Cup as a venue to prove their value to the Bolts. 

“Well, there are two ways of looking at it,” said Trillo. “If their contract is expiring, they want to play hard, they want to play well, to prove to management that they deserve to be on the team. The other mentality would be they’d be worried and not play well.” 

“We’re after winners, not losers, so [there are] two mentalities: [the] loser’s mentality, they can go to another team if they want; [the] winner’s mentality, if they play hard every night, give their hundred percent, and we feel that they deserve to be on the team, then obviously we’ll sign them up. That’s not going to be a problem at the end of the season.” 

Under the PBA salary cap rules, players can receive a maximum deal of Php 420,000 a month.

The current PBA season is Head Coach Norman Black and Trillo’s first with the franchise. When they assess their plays following the Governors’ Cup, the decisions they plan to make will depend on the foundation they want to build for Meralco’s future. 

“Obviously Coach Norman and his staff have been assessing the guys not only in this conference but the whole year. And then of course we have the upper management who have also been following all the games,” said Trillo. 

“There’s no step-by-step process, really. All we know is that at the end of the year - obviously we’re all going to get together, meet, discuss, and talk about it.” 

“We’re looking at a number of things, obviously,” the team manager said. “Like I said, we’re looking for winners; guys who want to play for us. Of course the talent level, the skill level, the heart - these are all things you want to consider. At the end of the day though, it’s the total player that we’re looking at.”

Trillo says they will give everybody a “fair chance” come assessment time. But the available roster spots may be shorter than it is now thanks in part to the upcoming PBA Draft, where the Bolts have two picks in the first round.

One of those is from GlobalPort, who sent their 2015 first round draft pick to Meralco in 2013 with Rey Guevarra, Josh Vanlandingham, and Vic Manuel for Sol Mercado, Kelly Nabong, Jaypee Balencion, and Yousif Aljamal. That Batang Pier pick is currently projected to land somewhere between picks 3-6.

The other pick is Meralco’s own first-round selection for this year’s draft, which will have a deep pool of young and talented propsects such as La Salle’s Norbert Torres, Ateneo’s Chris Newsome, UPHSD’s Earl Thompson, and others available when the Bolts are on the clock.

“That’s big for us,” Trillo said about Meralco having two selections. 

“It really depends on where we land (who they’re going to pick). At the end of the second conference we were ranked third, which is GlobalPort’s pick, and eighth, which is our pick. I don’t know how that’s going to fall after the year, but [there are] a lot of good players.”