MANILA, Philippines – (UPDATED) The Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) on Thursday accepted the application of three new franchises, expanding the league membership to 13 teams, the most since the PBA started.
“Three applied. Three were recommended for approval. Three were approved,” PBA Commissioner Chito Salud announced after a lengthy board meeting.
The PBA Board unanimously approved the applications of NLEX, KIA and Ever Bilena for next season.
“This is a first. I think this is a momentous occasion for the PBA,” said Salud. “Nothing can be more exciting than that.”
“We’re sending them the formal acceptance of their membership within the week, and we will expect their formal reply at the soonest possible time,” he added.
“The PBA Board saw that each of the applicants was liquid, profitable, and would add value to the league,” Salud said of the three new teams.
The three new teams will not be allowed to make direct hires, and the PBA will instead hold an expansion draft at the end of the 39th season in July. Existing teams can protect up 14 players in their roster, with the two unprotected players going into the expansion draft.
“The (existing) teams have decided to let go of the two players in excess of their 14, which will make up around 25 players,” explained Salud. “And we have gathered around 40 veteran free agents, so that makes a total of 65 players to choose from.”
“And then, of course, you have the rookie free agents, the rookies that have not been signed up,” he added.
Salud said they did not allow for direct hires to give the new teams an even playing field, as only NLEX and Ever Bilena – which will play as Blackwater Sports – have existing teams in the PBA D-League. NLEX will play as the Road Warriors, while KIA has yet to announce a name for its team.
The three new teams will also be given the 11th, 12th and 13th picks in the 2014-2015 rookie draft, said Salud.
With the league expanding to 13 teams, Salud expects the PBA to have a minimum of four game days a week, and five at the most. There will still be three conferences in the season which will last for 10-and-a-half months.