The NLEX Road Warriors may be 4-0 in the 2023 Honda PBA Governors’ Cup, but they’re facing quite a unique predicament.
Jonathon Simmons, who has been a major reason for the Road Warriors’ current unbeaten run, will be leaving the team and will reportedly be joining a squad from the Chinese Basketball Association (CBA). Simmons had himself quite the sendoff, as he led all scorers with 38 points in a close NLEX win over the Phoenix Super LPG Fuel Masters.
One can’t blame Simmons for leaving for what is reportedly a more lucrative offer from the CBA. At 33, a basketball career that pays well can only last for so long for him. However, this whole situation is more telling about the PBA than the CBA itself.
PBA salaries have been notoriously low compared to other professional leagues and while imports usually earn a larger pay, it doesn’t seem to be as competitive as it should be. The cost of goods all over the world have gone up and it doesn’t take a basketball fan to know that wages at the PBA may not be so competitive anymore.
Besides, one doesn’t have to look far as younger Philippine basketball players have taken their talents abroad or have been rumored to do so within the coming months. Robert Bolick is the latest player rumored to be moving overseas, but he has reportedly agreed to a contract extension with the NorthPort Batang Pier until the end of the year.
Most, if not all, of these players are looking to provide for their family that even a pay bump that increases over time (and perhaps when the economy is much better) could mean a lot that players might even reconsider making going out of the country. Fixing the pay structure is obviously easier said than done, but that is the easiest way to keep the talent pool from being drained.
Issues on league parity and the on-court product are also important, but they are a story for another time; salaries provide a great incentive for the stakeholders that matter the most: the players themselves. The NBA has pretty much been a players’ league and while the PBA is miles away, inching closer by putting forth pro-player measures is a big step nonetheless. Once the players are cared for, the rest will follow and the other concerns could be easily dealt with.
In the meantime, all the Road Warriors could do is adjust and play with the cards they were dealt with. In fact, NLEX did have a contingency measure in place, bringing in another former NBA player in Wayne Selden Jr. Still, talent doesn’t necessarily equate to success, rather how said talent is used tends to be a major factor for success. How Road Warriors head coach Frankie Lim, who seems to have had quite the first season back as a PBA head coach, navigates through this remains to be seen. Moreover, Selden Jr. will still have to get accustomed to the PBA’s style of play no matter what Simmons or even NLEX themselves tells him.
As Selden Jr. gets more acclimated to his surroundings, it’s up to the rest of the Road Warriors to pick up the slack. Against the Fuel Masters, only four NLEX players other than Simmons scored at least nine points, with only Anthony Semerad (16 points) making more than half of his field goal attempts. Someone like Kevin Alas and Don Trollano could really help, but a greater team effort on both ends of the floor would be needed.
The NLEX Road Warriors’ 4-0 start to the 2023 Honda PBA Governors’ Cup is their best one in franchise history but even an unbeaten run can’t keep Jonathon Simmons, arguably their best player this conference, from leaving for greener pastures. It’s a symptom of a greater issue that has hounded the PBA but, there has arguably been an obvious solution looming for quite some time. Only time will tell, though, if the powers that be will act on it.