MANILA, AUGUST 9, 2006 (STAR) SPORTING CHANCE By Joaquin M. Henson - The intricate eight-player, three-team trade involving Air21, Ginebra San Miguel and Coca-Cola was approved only partially by Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) commissioner Noli Eala because of a rule disallowing a circuitous procedure where something given up is reacquired before the next succeeding season.

In simple terms without the legal gobbledygook, Eala’s decision means you can’t go full circle by giving up something and getting it back on practically the same deal. Taking the scenic route won’t legitimize the transaction particularly as it’s apparent an accommodation was made along the way to provide a conduit for Ginebra and Coca-Cola, so-called "sister" teams, to negotiate a trade.

Eala broke down the details of the trade and approved two of the three provisions. The only clause he rejected was Air21 sending Kalani Ferreria, Manny Ramos, a 2006 second round pick, a future first round pick to Coca-Cola for the return of the Express’ 2007 and 2008 first round picks and the Tigers’ 2008 second round pick.

What broke the camel’s back was the return of Air21’s 2007 and 2008 first round picks which were traded to Coca-Cola, along with Ryan Bernardo, for Rafi Reavis, Billy Mamaril and Rudy Hatfield’s signing rights to initiate the complicated deal.

Eala approved the first and second provisions of the trade. The second involved Ginebra trading Ferreria, Aris Dimaunahan, Ervin Sotto, Ramos, two 2006 second round picks and a future first round pick to Air 21 for Reavis, Mamaril and Hatfield’s rights.

Eala has left the door open for the three teams to revise the rejected provision but made it clear Air21 will not be able to regain the 2007 and 2008 first round picks until the next succeeding season.

Without the third provision, Coca-Cola winds up with Bernardo and Air21’s 2007 and 2008 first round picks while the Express welcomes Ferreria, Dimaunahan, Sotto and Ramos. Air21 also gets two 2006 second round picks and a future Ginebra first round pick. Ginebra walks away with Reavis, Mamaril and Hatfield’s rights.

Although Eala has approved two of the three provisions, it’s possible the entire deal may go down the drain if the three parties agree to return to Square One.

For instance, Air21 could throw a monkey wrench on the whole transaction by insisting on reacquiring its 2007 and 2008 first round picks. Coca-Cola could do the same by insisting on getting Ferreria, Ramos, a 2006 second round pick and a future first round pick. If the teams claim the outlawed third provision is an integral part of the trade, they could negate the entire transaction.

Eala summed up his decision clearly: "In relation to my decision on the three-way trade, I am not saying that this was a perfect trade. Rare is one. But in a league that is governed by rules, the presumption of good faith must always be respected sans evidence to the contrary. And when we presume good faith, we trust that teams enter into transactions not only their interests in mind to be more competitive and responsive to their teams’ needs but also to the greater interests of the league and the public."

Eala isn’t accusing any of the three teams of unfair collusion. Neither is he overstepping his authority as commissioner and curtailing the right of teams to engage in free trade. All he’s saying is the third provision goes against an existing PBA rule which must be followed.

Eala said hypothetically, the entire trade could be scrapped if the parties decide to start from scratch.

But yesterday, a source said Air21 and Coca-Cola had agreed to revise the third provision and save the trade. Part of the revised third provision would send Ferreria and Ramos to the Tigers in exchange for two future Coca-Cola first round picks. * * * National coach Chot Reyes’ return to active duty in the PBA is a step in the right direction.

Since relinquishing the Coca-Cola reins to Binky Favis last year, Reyes has concentrated on what is in fact an ad-hoc job of organizing the national team when an opportunity to play crops up.

Reyes conducted weekly practices for national team players during the PBA season but never got a complete attendance because of conflict of schedules. His task was increasingly becoming a frustration. And without a regular team to coach, Reyes faced the grim possibility of getting stale.

San Miguel Beer was the perfect vehicle for Reyes to take over because previous coach Joseph Uichico was ready to reunite with ex-assistant Siot Tanquingcen in bringing his distinct brand of "cool" to Ginebra.

Reyes’ fiery style will surely shake up the Beermen who need a reawakening after finishing eighth in the last Fiesta Conference and placing fourth in the recent Philippine Cup.

As for Uichico, his temperament should calm things down at Ginebra which often operates on pure emotion. Uichico and Tanquingcen make a formidable tandem. They complement each other and with more pieces falling into place, Ginebra could be stronger than ever next season.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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