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Gilas pool back to PBA

It’s still not certain when Gilas coach Chot Reyes can start once-a-week practice to prepare for the SEABA Championships on May 12-18 but after a recent three-day camp at Splendido Taal, the pool of 25 is back in the PBA. There were several no-shows at the camp and one of them Paul Lee has been replaced by Allein Maliksi as the Star Hotshots’ veteran contribution. Lee would’ve been a shoo-in for the final 12.

The uncertainty of who will be in the final 12 may be somewhat addressed once Reyes trims the roster from 25 to 15. PBA commissioner Chito Narvasa recently said once Reyes announces the pool of 15, the players who were not named may return to their PBA mother teams for the Commissioner’s Cup with permanence.

As it is, the players from the pool of 25 are back in the PBA but will be recalled once the SBP and PBA agree on a training timetable. He said each Gilas rookie is contracted to a PBA team for two years and may not be traded or terminated. In Mahindra forward Russel Escoto’s case, he was placed in the unrestricted free agent list after suffering an ACL injury to allow the Flood Busters the opportunity to fill a slot in the active reserve roster. Narvasa said even as Escoto is in the unrestricted free agent list, he may not be picked up by any PBA team.

Under the terms of the memorandum of agreement between the SBP and PBA, the Gilas rookies in the PBA may be released for full-time training with the national team 30 days before the start of the SEABA tournament. That should’ve been last March 12. The other PBA players in the pool are supposed to be released 15 days before the start of the tournament but that may be advanced to 30 days if the PBA Board of Governors agrees to move the schedule. It’s likely that when Reyes cuts the pool to 15, once-a-week practices on Monday will be called immediately.

On another matter, Narvasa said he’s not wasting time to be bothered by haters, bashers and fault finders. “For me, let’s forget the negativity,” he said. “Personally, I won’t concentrate on trying to address the negative comments. Instead, I prefer to concentrate on what’s positive and good for the league. I want to make sure everybody enjoys the PBA. We’ve got a lot to be grateful to the PBA for. Players become stars because of the PBA.”

Blackwater PBA governor Silliman Sy described the Elite’s search for an import this conference as the toughest ever. “Some of the prospective imports we tried to bring in were Jarrid Famous, Jarred Shaw, Cady Lalanne, Anthony Lee, Donte Greene and Terrence Jennings,” he said. “We were lucky Greg Smith was available.”

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 Smith, 26, planed in from San Francisco over a week ago. The 6-8 3/8 center from Fresno State played for Houston, Dallas and Minnesota in a five-year NBA career, earning over $3 million. He saw action in 149 NBA games, including 12 starts, and averaged 4.0 points and 3.3 boards. Among the highly-touted candidates were the 6-10 Lalanne who was the San Antonio Spurs second round pick in 2015 and the 6-9 Greene who was Memphis’ first round choice in 2008 and played four years with the Sacramento Kings. 

 Smith said it’s not his first time in Manila. He was here in 2013 with the Rockets who played a preseason game against Indiana at the MOA Arena. “I know Filipino fans love basketball and it’s a big reason why I’m here,” he said. “I’m looking forward to playing in the PBA. I’ve played against Alex Stepheson (Meralco), Sean Williams (GlobalPort) and Eugene Phelps (Phoenix) in the US. They’re top-caliber players so I expect the competition to be at a high level. If coach Leo (Isaac) wants me to focus on defense, I’ll slow down whomever I’m told to stop. It doesn’t matter if he’s a three, four or five. I’ll work within our system.” Smith follows in the footsteps of other Fresno State players who’ve suited up in the PBA like Noel Felix, Tremaine Fowlkes, Randy Holcomb, Hiram Fuller and Bernard Thompson. 

 Alaska’s original import choice was 6-9 Malcolm Thomas of San Diego State. Thomas, 28, played for San Antonio, Golden State, Chicago, Utah and Philadelphia in four NBA seasons. Thomas signed a contract to play for the Aces but never arrived. Aces coach Alex Compton then turned to Octavius Ellis as a replacement. Ellis, 24, is a 6-10 center from the University of Cincinnati and has played as an import in Montenegro. After a week in town, Ellis asked out, citing a family emergency he had to attend to. The split was amicable but Compton was left scrambling for a third replacement who turned out to be Cory Jefferson.

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