Philippine basketball

PBA reworks free agency, rookie rules after Ravena, Parks debacle

JR Isaga

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PBA reworks free agency, rookie rules after Ravena, Parks debacle

JAPAN-BOUND. Ray Parks and TNT go their separate ways.

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Check out the new PBA rules involving rookies and free agents

The PBA has introduced sweeping changes, effective immediately, to its controversial free agency and rookie rules on Saturday, July 24, following issues related to former TNT star Ray Parks, and the Ravena brothers Kiefer and Thirdy.

Unrestricted free agency starts, 5-year ban awaits contract violations

Players with no contract and no offer from their mother teams can now be unrestricted free agents, and will no longer have their rights held in perpetuity, albeit still with some conditions.

Mother teams may tender extensions, but free agents can now reject them and look elsewhere after a 30-day period. However, that mother team can opt to match the offer made by other PBA teams within five days, and immediately keep their player’s rights.

If that five-day window also elapses, only then can true unrestricted free agency start, and the player’s new contract may start with another team.

On the other hand, a five-year ban from the PBA awaits players who refuse to suit up if ever the mother team does match another team’s offer, and does not grant a release.

For the case of Parks, he was granted a release by the TNT Tropang Giga to play elsewhere, reportedly the Japanese B. League.

Because there was a standing offer made after the 2020 Philippine Cup, TNT retained his rights, and he may only switch PBA teams without necessitating a trade after five years.

Live contracts strengthened, P20 million team fine, bans await violators

While free agency rules were loosened, live contracts, meanwhile, were tightened up to prevent further confusion like the situation with NLEX star Kiefer Ravena.

These contracts now may not be terminated except for medical reasons. A team that allows pre-termination will be fined P20 million, and the player in question will be banned from the PBA.

If a player alone decides to try and terminate his contract, that player will be outright banned from the PBA, and must wait five years before he can play elsewhere due to standing playing rights of the live contract.

As for Ravena, he was given a one-season reprieve to experience B. League play with the Shiga Lakestars at the conclusion of the 2021 Philippine Cup, after which his current contract, supposedly set to run until 2023, will be terminated.

Ravena, NLEX, and the PBA then had a handshake agreement that Ravena will return to NLEX with a new, reworked contract after one B. League season.

Draft eligibility age lowered and capped, special lottery for ‘dodgers’

The league has also reworked its rules for incoming rookies, most notably lowering the minimum age from 21 to 19 years old with just two years of college education instead of the usual four.

For players who have not completed at least two years of college, they may still join the draft once they reach 22 years old, and have played at least seven D-League games.

Outright eligible players with D-League experience, however, must apply for the draft or risk a five-year sitout before they can throw their names in again.

As an incentive for top prospects to immediately join the PBA, the rookie max contract cap has been waived for the top three picks, and only the veteran’s maximum will apply.

An eligible player may still be drafted three years from the date of his eligibility, but he will be thrown into a “special lottery” among the league’s 12 teams.

If a player still refuses to be drafted after that three-year window, the rest of the five-year ban will then apply, only two more years at this point, before he can then throw his name into the regular draft.

Basically, a 19-year-old incoming college junior who has already played for the national team or at least seven D-League games will already be eligible, and must apply for the draft or else risk the three-year special lottery window and the five-year sitout clause overall.

This means that 24-year-old college graduate Thirdy Ravena, who has signed a multi-year deal with the B. League’s San-en NeoPhoenix, has until 2022 to decide to throw his name into a special lottery.

Otherwise, he will be banned from joining the PBA outright until 2024, five years after he made his Gilas Pilipinas debut that waived his D-League game requirements.

Fil-foreigners’ draft requirements remain, ‘Maurice Shaw rule’ in effect

Fil-foreigners’ draft requirements, meanwhile, have not changed much.

They may also join the draft at age 19 with two years of college done, but they can join the regular draft until they turn 30 years old, provided they have complied with the usual requirements set by the Bureau of Immigration and the Department of Justice.

They may have their 14 D-League games requirement waived upon turning 27 years old as usual, but they no longer need to join the draft after turning 31, and can just be signed outright by any team.

Players like NLEX 3×3’s Maurice Shaw could have benefitted from this new rule, as he was still required to be drafted under old rules back when he was 34 years old in 2019. 

He was selected second overall by the Blackwater Elite before getting hampered by injuries for much of the 2020 bubble season.

Players, team reps left out of rule group

These sets of new rules were made by a special study group headed by PBA vice chairman Bobby Rosales.

He was joined by former PBA commissioner Chito Salud, deputy chief Eric Castro, executive assistant Mich Flores, ex-PBL head Atty. Odjie Narvasa, Atty. Alberto Agra of the Philippine Sports Commission, D-League technical head Junior Bengua, and former coach Joe Lipa.

Unnamed media members and lawyers were also part of the group, while players and team officials were notably left out of the discussions. –

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