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Phoenix Fuel Masters now focus on working with new pieces

By Michael Angelo S. Murillo, Senior Reporter

AFTER they let go of a key piece in Calvin Abueva, the Phoenix Super LPG Fuel Masters are now focusing on working with what they got in return and continue with their Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) push.

The Fuel Masters surprised many in the PBA when they decided to trade do-it-all forward Abueva to the Magnolia Hotshots Pambansang Manok in exchange for guard Chris Banchero and first and second round picks in this year’s rookie draft.

The deal came on the heels of Mr. Abueva signing a three-year extension with the Fuel Masters in December following a stellar showing in the PBA “bubble” last year, where he was a key part in Phoenix’s solid showing, coming within a win away from advancing to its first-ever finals appearance.

He rejoined the team after being suspended by the league for 16 months for conduct unbecoming of a professional and actions detrimental to the league.

In his return, Pampanga native Abueva was still his all-around self, averaging 15.4 points, 11.3 rebounds, 5.2 assists and 1.7 steals and was in the running for best player of the conference.

He also held his emotions in check throughout the tournament, even earning consideration for the sportsmanship award.

In trading Mr. Abueva, Phoenix said it was not an easy decision to make, considering what he brings to the team but something it had to do for it felt there were other teams that could better handle his persona on and off the court moving forward.

“It was a hard decision to make by the management and the coaches. We stuck with him through thick and thin while he was out of the league. Calvin is a very good basketball player, but it’s not just basketball with him. There are a lot of things and everybody knows that. We embraced that for a long time until the Magnolia offer fell in our lap,” said Phoenix team manager Paolo Bugia on The Chasedown program on Saturday.

The Phoenix team official said they considered the offer and felt it will be a win-win deal for all concerned with them getting value in return, apart from pursuing the direction it wants to take, and Magnolia acquiring a player like Mr. Abueva and the latter going to a good team.

“With that offer, we felt like we got a superstar in his own right in Chris Banchero, something that we needed because we didn’t really have a pure point guard to take the pressure off Matthew Wright. On top of that, we also got a lottery pick (sixth overall) in what many consider to be a talent-rich rookie pool. We are now ready to move on and focus on basketball,” Mr. Bugia said.

The deal also included Magnolia getting Phoenix’s first-round pick (10th) in the March 14 draft.

The Phoenix-Magnolia trade came just as the teams are girding for the deep pool of players in this year’s rookie draft where a record 97 aspirants have applied for the draft, consisting of standout collegiate and pro-am players and promising Fil-foreigners.

Mr. Bugia said they are looking to use the picks they got from Magnolia to get a big man and a versatile forward.

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