Reigning champion Barangay Ginebra San Miguel is preparing for the possibility of losing import Justin Brownlee in the coming Philippine Basketball Association Commissioner’s Cup starting 5 November.
Kings governor Alfrancis Chua admitted that they are now looking for a replacement import after the six-time champion flunked the drug test performed by the International Testing Agency in the aftermath of Gilas Pilipinas’ historic conquest in the 19th Asian Games.
The ITA, an independent testing firm based in Lausanne, found traces of Carboxy-THC, a prohibited substance related to cannabis, in the system of the 35-year-old Brownlee a day after helping the Filipinos snap a 61-year title drought.
There is no confirmation yet if Brownlee will request for the opening of his B-sample, but he is facing the risk of getting suspended for 24 months in all tournaments sanctioned by the International Basketball Federation, including the PBA.
If that happens, Brownlee will miss the Kings’ title defense in the season-opening conference and will not return to action until he is already 37 years old.
But the Kings vow that they will not allow themselves to play without reinforcement.
“We don’t know yet about the decision,” Chua said during the press launch of the league’s Season 48 on Tuesday at the Diamond Hotel in Manila.
“But as of now, we’re already looking for a replacement. We don’t know if it’s already late, but at least we’ll be ready when they release the ‘bomb.’”
Chua said Brownlee’s fate remains hanging.
The naturalized star, for one, is still in the United States to collate all documents that will be needed in justifying the presence of cannabis in his urine sample.
The ITA had already informed Brownlee and presented all his options, but FIBA has yet to reach out to the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas or the PBA to explain all the possible repercussions.
The SBP and the PBA have yet to issue an official statement on the matter.
Chua said it appears that they will not contest the outcome of the drug test.
“We didn’t want to contest it. Just to let everybody know, we didn’t want to contest it. The Sample B is the same urine test of Brownlee. He’s not going to be tested for a new one,” Chua, who still included Brownlee in their final roster for Season 48, said.
“His urines before were put into two canisters when he did the test in China. It’s the same sample.”
“But we’re just going to wait what they’re going to tell the SBP (Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas), but as of now, we’re still on the wait-and-see mode.”
Brownlee has been a beloved import in the PBA.
He first suited up as a replacement import for Paul Harris in 2016 until leading the Kings to six titles with three Best Import honors.
His last title came at the expense of visiting Bay Area Dragons, who were powered by two solid reinforcements in National Basketball Association veteran Andrew Nicholson and journeyman Myles Powell.
His string of success, however, suffered a major blow when Rondae Hollis-Jefferson bannered the TNT Tropang Giga to the Governors’ Cup.
Hollis-Jefferson, who has a resume that is far more stellar than Brownlee, went on to win the Best Import award before helping Jordan in challenging Gilas Pilipinas for the Asian Games title.