07 August 2014

Farming Time Is Never Fun in the PBA

Farming Time
In all kinds of sports, a farm team, farm system, feeder team or nursery club, usually refers to a team or club whose role is to provide experience and quality players to their mother teams. It also serves as a training ground for young players, with an agreement that any successful players can move on to a higher level team at a given point. This system can be implemented in many ways, both formally and informally.

Traditionally, the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) does not have a farm team among its members because it destroys the fundamental principle behind the concept of competition and defeats the purpose of league parity that favors only the moneyed corporations.

The only farm team that the PBA owns is the Development League (D-League). The PBA relies on the elite collegiate leagues to produce new PBA players, and thus the latter was often known as the "feeders", but it is at the D-League where they train rookies and undrafted players for future employment.

However, in recent years, there are certain development in the professional league that puts in question the claim that there are no farm teams in the PBA. The rumour started slow, but as the same set of teams ended the conference on a losing note despite the trades they entered, those rumors start to give us an ear-splitting screech.

For instance, up to now, nobody can make any sense on why Barako Bull gave up its No. 4 pick in last year’s Rookie Draft to Barangay Ginebra San Miguel in exchange for Rico Maierhofer and Willy Wilson. The team also dealt the fifth pick in a three-way deal with Petron and GlobalPort to receive little-used bench-warmers Magi Sison and Mark Isip from the Boosters.

The squad capped its first round of questionable moves by trading the No. 6 pick to GlobalPort for veteran guard Denok Miranda. Those picks were used to take in solid prospects — James Forrester, Terrence Romeo, and RR Garcia. Are they selling high and rebuilding or are just plain playing the role of a farm team to the hilt?

Instead of dipping its hands into one of the deepest and most talented drafts in recent years and becoming a team of the future, Barako Bull acted like it had consistently done in the past and rekindled past accusations that it is no more than a 'farm team' for the San Miguel-owned teams. Before the 2013 Rookie Draft, the team agreed to deal their best player, Allein Maliksi, in exchange for seldom-used Wesley Gonzales and guard Chris Pacana from powerhouse San Mig Coffee.

In 2012, the San Mig Coffee Mixers also sent Josh Urbiztondo to Barako Bull Energy Cola in exchange for a first round pick in 2013. Can you imagine that? Urbiztondo worth a first round draft pick? Can we see a repeat of the most illogical Baraka Bull moves in the next Rookie Draft set on 24 August 2014? Probability seems to favour that.

Not only did the Barako Bull wastes SEVERAL good opportunities to move forward, it also has taken several steps backwards by trading away some of the few good players it had in Eman Monfort and Rico Villanueva and giving former national coach Rajko Toroman the boot.

So what should be done to address these blatant one-sided unprincipled deals? If a team is a farm, and the fans of that team understand why the team is a farm and there are no indicators that suggest anything will change in the immediate future, the league has the right to get pissed and demand change (unless they’re in cahoots with that that team).

If there's anything for Commissioner Chito Salud to do on this subject is to address the acts of farming through fines or perhaps more aggressive punishment. The question of what constitutes an act of farming is not nearly as complicated when you strip all of the usual excuses of ‘rebuilding’ stuff away. Heck, include a warning system to set some boundaries. When a reporter says the Barako Bull plan to trade their second statistical leader and top rookie Jeric Fortuna or athletic forward Keith Jensen, good ol’ Salud can fire up his Batphone and threaten a fine.

Oh, wait! Jensen was already traded to GlobalPort for RR Garcia, the same player whom they could have nabbed if only they used their pick wisely last year. Crazy is a word than cannot explain what is happening here.

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