Vic Manuel trade demand shows PBA reform overdue

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VIC Manuel has been the subject of trade rumors for almost a year now. Despite being disgruntled, he played for Alaska in the “bubble” and averaged almost 16 points and 6 rebounds. With the Aces floundering and lacking a true leader, it is baffling why they don’t seem too keen on keeping the Muscle Man.

Now that the news is out, the Alaska brass has made him “the top priority” in negotiations. The contract dispute was already divulged: Manuel claims the Aces only offered a one-year deal. Alaska team manager Dickie Bachman refuted, “We offered a two-year max deal with a clause in his second year.”

It took a public trade demand for Alaska to grant an audience with their top performing player. The Aces is far from being the top team, and it has actually regressed in the last two seasons. It has recently traded one of its top performing assets: Chris Banchero. Now, it’s Manuel.

The aftermath of the meeting
Alaska head coach Jeffrey Cariaso, himself a former Aces stalwart, met with Manuel last Friday. In his own words: “As always, I reminded him that doing things the right way will always be the best way — that honesty, integrity and honor must never wither as we discuss plans while understanding each other’s situation.”

Trade demands are always seen as negative behavior — even a mark of being unprofessional. One might question why we have criticized James Harden over his trade demand but have not crucified the Muscle Man.

There is just one thing that separates the two situations: the signature on the dotted line. Harden is currently signed to a mammoth max contract; Manuel is not. And this is the oppressive side of the PBA. The team owns you even if they don’t sign you.

Eloquent as Cariaso’s words were, it is quite disheartening to see a former star player questioning the integrity of a current one. Especially since it’s Vic Manuel.

The hard road
Manuel is not similar to most of the other stars in the PBA. He did not get the royal treatment of the media while in college since he did not play in the big leagues (UAAP or NCAA). That means he had no superstar treatment or financial benefits, making a name for himself when he was with the Philippine School of Business Administration, as the most valuable player (MVP) of the Universities and Colleges Athletic Association (How many UCAA games have you watched in your life?).

He also won MVP honors in the defunct Philippine Basketball League and D-League before being drafted ninth overall in the 2012 PBA Draft — the same draft that yielded June Mar Fajardo and Calvin Abueva. The same draft class that missed out on the recent unrestricted free agent declaration.

Here’s the sad scenario in a nutshell: Vic Manuel has not yet been signed by Alaska, but he cannot sign with any other team unless Alaska trades him.

It’s the same predicament of Greg Slaughter. He cannot sign with another team unless Ginebra releases him. So, you lose leverage with your team since you cannot use other team offers to force their hand.

Slaughter could afford not to sign and wait out in the US, but Manuel is a family man, and his family was his motivation to seek more security in his contract, possibly through a long-term deal. Unfortunately, that is something the Aces were not willing to give him.

The PBA and NBA are poles apart when it comes to player empowerment. While James Harden whines with his trade demand, he is being paid $30 million. Manuel, since he’s not under contract, would not earn anything.

The adoption of unrestricted free agency is a move in the right direction. Teams should not own players; they are not commodities. If they are no longer part of a team’s long-term plans, players should be traded to a different team.

Most players enter the PBA late at 23-25 years old. If you’re talented and lucky to avoid injury, you could be playing until you’re 35+ years old. That’s just about a decade to earn as much as you can for your family. Can you blame Vic Manuel for trying to make the most out of that narrow window?

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