I've always wondered how trade negotiations among basketball teams actually transpire. For straight-up swaps between two teams, this player for that, or even those involving multiple players or including draft picks and monetary considerations, it would seem fairly simple.
The representative of one team calls the rep of another to make a proposal, which is either met with an acceptance or counter-proposal, and so on and so forth. The situation, though, is different when the trade involves several teams, not just two.
Do the reps of, let's say, all five teams involved go on conference call (a standard practice nowadays to convene meetings)? Do they actually meet up at a certain place and do hours of negotiations, to try to come up with an "everybody wins" situation? Or does the primary proponent of the exchange call the rep of each other team one by one, then call back after speaking to the others? That would be such a tedious process, but if the trade is necessary to improve his team, I'm sure he'd do it.
Well, a big trade actually happened in the PBA just a couple of days ago, involving five teams, including some marquee players, contributors, some throw-ins, and a draft pick. The juiciest and most intriguing part of the whole deal was the inclusion of LA Tenorio, erstwhile of the Alaska Aces, who just earned MVP honors in the 2012 Jones Cup held in Taiwan, where he led Team Gilas Pilipinas to the championship victory.
Broken down, this is what happened: Tenorio ends up with Ginebra San Miguel, Willie Miller transfers from Barako Bull to Global Port, Enrico Villanueva transfers from Ginebra to Barako Bull, Dondon Hontiveros goes from Petron to Alaska, JVee Casio lands at Alaska, too, coming over from Global Port, and Hans Thiele and Wesley Gonzales move from Alaska to Petron. Alaska also gets Ginebra's 2015 second-round draft pick. Clear?
Since the Philippine population includes about five million basketball "experts", many have already broken down the trade and weighed the effect it can have on each of the teams involved. Here is what I think.
For Ginebra, they lose only Enrico Villanueva, a not-often used big guy who, when used, was very inconsistent. They also lose a 2015 second round pick, which may not be important unless the 2015 draft is as deep as this year's, where even a late second round pick may make a difference.
Ginebra is surely loaded at the guard position, but Jayjay Helterbrand's future is up in the air, Rob Labagala is surely replaceable, and draft picks Jerick Cañada and Paul Zamar were longshots on draft day, even longer shots now.
Tenorio brings hard-to-match ball handling and leadership skills, has been a winner on every level he has played and is coming off one of the greatest performances in Philippine basketball history. He is clutch, and with Mark Caguioa can form a scary tandem of late-game heroes. Some more maneuvering may happen for Ginebra to balance its bigs and smalls, but I actually like the potential of a Mike Cortez-LA Tenorio backcourt. Ginebra fans should be ecstatic.
Miller's stint at Barako was sometimes spectacular, sometimes ho-hum. He now moves to his sixth team, Global Port, which can very well utilize his backcourt savvy and scoring skills, after losing its two high draft picks from last year, while still named Powerade, in a matter of months (Marcio Lassiter and Casio). Miller's value is current — everyone knows what he can do when he wants to, and he is expected to deliver immediately and frequently.
Losing Casio is disappointing to Global Port followers, since he flashed brilliance on many occasions after a slow start last season and, like Tenorio, is clutch and has been a winner ever since. Global Port will also miss his fans, who cheered like crazy for him in his rookie year. In the long run, Global Port may regret giving up Casio, but right now, Miller, if motivated, can easily replace the production of Casio and be just as reliable in close games.
We understand Global Port fans' slight disappointment, but if Miller and the amazing Gary David can play off each other, and the new guys, Vic Manuel, Jason Deutchman, and bull-strong guard AJ Mandani can contribute as expected, the "new" team could flourish.
Barako lost Miller. They will also miss Don Allado due to suspension. They got a big man from Ateneo, Villanueva, to replace the suspended former Lasallian in the rotation. Remember, Enrico played, to my mind, his best basketball ever while wearing a Barako uniform under Yeng Guiao.
This is a chance for the surprise Gilas Pilipinas inclusion to show fans that he still has some game and that he is still relevant in discussions about big men in the PBA. While Miller led them in scoring last season, Barako oftentimes got contributions from many other players who are more than willing to fill up whatever may be lost by Miller's departure. Note that Barako got Sean Anthony via a trade and picked Dave Marcelo on draft day. The frontline is secure. The new backcourt guys are pressured to deliver, but, with all the veterans in the lineup, there should not be much of a change here.
The Alaska Aces seem to be the villain in all of this since many were shocked, surprised, dismayed, disappointed, and confused as to how they could trade away the Philippine basketball flavor of the month for August 2012, Tenorio. We already heard rumors about Tenorio being traded even before the Jones Cup was underway. Those spreading the news gave many possible reasons as to why Alaska would be willing to make it happen, but at the end of the day, any team will say that it makes trades in an attempt to make itself better.
Tenorio's Jones Cup MVP performance only made it harder for Alaska, and perhaps made its management think twice, but at the end of the day, receiving Casio and Dondon Hontiveros to play in its backcourt might just make all the difference in the world for a team seeking to return to former glory.
In Casio, Alaska gets a younger Tenorio. Casio is coming into his own as a playmaker, after having played the point with Smart Gilas and many times in his rookie year. He can hit the three-point shot just as consistently as Tenorio, and probably even has a quicker-release and farther range. He drives to the basket more fearlessly, and he is just as automatic from the free-throw line. He is a fan favorite and a genuine nice guy who plays all-out. It may be hard to swallow for some, but Alaska may have just swapped for equal talent. The major bonus, though, is Dondon Hontiveros.
Hontiveros hardly played last season but, if healthy, is still a top-caliber two-guard, a veteran used to carrying a team and dealing with pressure. He will be a steady influence on the young guys of Alaska, who include the Beast, Calvin Abueva, and Mac Baracael. Even in spot duty, his contributions will be invaluable. Just knowing Cyrus Baguio can rest while Hontiveros gets some minutes should relax Coach Luigi Trillo a bit (a very little bit) more.
Understanding the impact of having landed both Casio and Hontiveros should, after a few weeks, ease the pain of losing Tenorio. Alaska should be very happy with whom it got for Tenorio. Gonzales and Thiele were just throw-ins to complete the deal.
Petron lost well-loved player Hontiveros, but even Dondon himself admitted that he did not contribute much to his team in the past season with all the time he lost due to injury. Petron simply clinched the deal for all participating teams by allowing Hontiveros to move to Alaska, and accepting Gonzales and Thiele who, reports say, will not even be on its roster when the season starts. Supposedly, they are being considered to play in the Asean Basketball League with the San Miguel Beermen. While Petron and its fans will miss Hontiveros' presence, the team has more than enough talent to compete. On paper, there is no problem with the Petron lineup.
Some teams involved in the trade will definitely benefit more than others. Take note that the wheeling and dealing has not ended. All teams are in discussions as you read this, seeking to upgrade their lineups and find the right to mix to be successful in the coming 38th Season of the PBA. We will see how it all plays out from now until opening day on 30 September 2012.
You can follow Charlie on Twitter @CharlieC.