As Tropang TNT begins moving on after the Ivan Johnson episode, team officials said bringing back the mercurial American forward remains a 50-50 proposition.
The 6-foot-8 Johnson is scheduled to leave on Saturday, just days after seeing the original lifetime ban slapped on him by PBA commissioner Chito narvasa reduced to just one season.
His P250,000 fine was also downgraded to just P150,000, all after visiting Narvasa at the PBA office last Tuesday and apologizing for his actions in TNT’s loss to Meralco last week.
“We’re happy and glad dahil nabawasan yung fine niya at blessing na rin dahil may future pa siya in basketball. Kasi kung na-ban na siya (lifetime), mahirapan siguro siya to play in other countries,” TNT team manager Virgil Villavicencio told FOX Sports.
But when asked if the Tropa are open to bring him back next season once he’s done serving his one-year ban, Villavicencio is non-committal.
“It all depends, like one, if we will still keep his rights,” said the TNT manager.
The Tropa coach Jong Uichico, on the other hand, said the team had lunch with the former Atlanta Hawk to formally thank him for his contributions to the team in his brief comeback this year.
“We just had a team lunch (Thursday) and we said our farewell to him. We thanked him for coming over again,” said Uichico, whose team lost to GlobalPort on Friday, 108-101 after playing without an import.
But the 9-time PBA champion coach refused to say if TNT will be open to bringing back Johnson, who is noted for his explosive temper.
“It’s too soon to say (if TNT will bring back Johnson), but there’s always a chance,” said Uichico.
The veteran PBA coach said Johnson no doubt, elevated the team’s level of play because of his ability to defend, his outside shooting and the intensity he brings to the Tropa in practice and during games.
The Tropa return to action next Wednesday where they collide with the Alaska Aces at the Smart Araneta Coliseum. – Richard Dy
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