Greg deserves fair treatment
SPORTING CHANCE - Joaquin M. Henson (The Philippine Star) - February 21, 2020 - 12:00am

It’s clearly unfair to even speculate that Ginebra center Greg Slaughter’s decision to take a sabbatical from the PBA was prompted by rumors of an impending trade. He deserves a lot more credit than that.

Slaughter, 31, has never thought of himself as being entitled. Last year, he spoke openly about the travails of a professional athlete, that in the business of sports, trades are a way of life. Slaughter even mentioned that legends like Eric Menk, Jimmy Alapag and Asi Taulava underwent the experience of being traded so it’s nothing to be alarmed about when there are rumors of someone in the swap market.

Ginebra coach Tim Cone yesterday confirmed that after winning the Governors Cup title, Slaughter intimated that he was considering a sabbatical from basketball. Were there trade rumors in the air at that time? Certainly not. Ginebra had just bagged the championship and talking about a trade was in nobody’s mind because the team was in total celebration mood. Only after news broke out that Slaughter was taking a leave of absence did a rumor of trading the 7-foot center and rookie Jerrick Balanza for NorthPort’s Christian Standhardinger come out in social media.

Then a nasty rumor went around that Slaughter made outlandish demands to renew his Ginebra contract, including a no-trade clause. Eventually, Slaughter issued a statement on Twitter saying he never made any demands because there was no offer to renew his contract in the first place and he isn’t aware of any trade involving himself.

Cone said he hasn’t been able to contact Slaughter since his recent return from a vacation. “No word on Greg,” he said. “We haven’t been able to talk to him.” Cone added that during the team’s traditional exit interview after the Governors Cup, Slaughter mentioned he might go on leave. “He told me he was contemplating taking a break during our exit meeting after the championship,” said Cone.

Since he was picked first overall by Ginebra in the 2013 PBA draft, Slaughter has soldiered through a spate of injuries. But he still managed to win four championships, take the Best Player of the Conference award in the 2017 Governors Cup and capture Rookie of the Year honors. Last season, Slaughter averaged 9.6 points, 6.4 rebounds and 22.4 minutes in 49 games, missing only three contests in the Governors Cup. In 2018, he averaged 13.4 points, 8.0 rebounds and 27.8 minutes in 38 games, sitting out 19. In 2017, Slaughter averaged 13.8 points, 8.2 rebounds and 27.4 minutes in 23 games, missing 41. Over the last three seasons, Slaughter has skipped 63 games because of injuries.

Last December, Slaughter was on the Philippine team that Cone coached to the gold medal at the Southeast Asian Games. He averaged 8.8 points, 5.8 rebounds and 11:40 minutes while shooting 65.2 percent from the field. Given his limited time, Slaughter played exceptionally quality minutes. Against Singapore, he had nine points and eight rebounds. Against Myanmar, Slaughter collected 10 points and 10 rebounds. It was a timely prelude to his performance in the Governors Cup finals.

Slaughter’s decision to take a sabbatical was made a few days after San Miguel Beer’s June Mar Fajardo fractured his right tibia during a practice. Before that, Slaughter still wasn’t sure whether or not he would go on leave. It’s possible that Fajardo’s injury could’ve been a factor in his decision. In a statement, Slaughter said, “I’ve decided to take a break to be able to work on myself in all aspects … I may not know what the future holds but one thing is for sure, the best is yet to come.” It could be that during his sabbatical, Slaughter may get married to his long-time girlfriend. Ginebra teammate Japeth Aguilar just got hitched himself. Whatever he decides to do during his sabbatical, that’s his privilege and he’s not obligated to disclose anything.

Slaughter’s a good-natured, quiet and private person. When he went out of his way to meet an ailing eight-year-old fan in a Marikina hospital last August, it wasn’t until two months later that media got wind of the visit through a friend of his girlfriend. That’s how Slaughter is – he prefers not to be in the limelight, he’s humble and upright, he works hard to make himself better in whatever he does, on and off the court, without fanfare.

Slaughter’s parents are both health physicists with experience in working at nuclear power plants. He was born in Cleveland and baptized in Cebu where his mother Emma Fuentes is from. It was in Cebu where his mother met his father William. He’s an only child but has a half-sister and half-brother on his father’s side. Slaughter often visited Cebu until he settled there in 2007, studying and playing at the University of the Visayas. He was later recruited to play for Ateneo and won two UAAP titles with the Blue Eagles.

For what he’s achieved in basketball and for the honor he has given to the country as a national athlete, Slaughter deserves to be cut some slack. If he decides to return to basketball after his sabbatical, the PBA will welcome him back with open arms. If he decides to retire from active playing, fans should be grateful that for six years, there was a stout-hearted man named Greg Slaughter who gave it his all on the court in the game that Filipinos love with a passion.

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