CHICAGO - I drank the Kool-Aid. So much, I almost drowned.
Heck, I even served it to many of you, who gladly, effusively took a swig.
Right now, though, it's not tasting good. Kind of bland with a hint of bitter.
Did I oversell the hype of Kai Sotto making it to the NBA as the first homegrown, full-blooded Filipino to complete the feat?
I will let the Spin.ph readers judge me on this one, let them throw stones if they wish.
But here's what I will plead guilty to. I got carried away and allowed my emotions to obscure my objectivity.
You see, I met Kai in person last year here in Chicago at the All-Star Weekend and I liked him right away. And just as many of you did, I assigned this kid as the vessel to ferry my country's NBA dreams.
Sadly, it's not happening. And I'm broken into little pieces.
On ESPN's February projections, Kai is outside of the Top 60 prospects, which means he is unlikely to be picked if he enters the 2021 NBA Draft. Last December he was 99th overall and No. 14 in his position.
He can try in 2022 and get taken.
But for that to happen, the people he trusts to make decisions on his behalf, the adults in the room, must make sure that getting to the NBA must be the only focus.
Gilas can wait.
When the time is right, SBP and Tab Baldwin can have their piece of meat, prop Kai around, thump their chests, raise a toast, be merry, win tournament games and everything is kumbaya.
Now is not the right time.
It's easy to double-task if we're only talking about chewing gum and walking at the same time. But when you attempt to juggle two leagues a world apart in distance during a damn pandemic, you are flirting with disaster.
AND SURE ENOUGH, WITH THE DOHA FIBA WINDOW CLOSED, ONE PLUS ONE ENDED UP ZERO FOR KAI.
So what now?
Kai wants to crawl back to Orlando with SBP scrambling to find ways to eject him back to the U.S.
Love the effort, but then again, why did he leave in the first place?
Maybe Kai's handlers saw the writing on the wall when Ignite coach Brian Shaw said last December that Sotto "is not going to put up super great numbers in a situation like this because it's a guard game."
If Kai felt disparaged by the less-than-glowing review, he should have weaponized it as a tool to work even harder to insert himself in the regular rotation.
Instead, he traveled half the globe and inconvenienced himself with health and quarantine protocols for a canceled Gilas reunion.
With my dear friend and colleague Snow Badua holding the torch, the blame game is now raging like wildfire on social media.
I am recalcitrant to participate.
Kai Sotto's celebrity athlete life is so complicated in a way that previous relationships and current commitments tend to overlap, thus creating the potential for a hot mess.
And because his management team, East West Private, is guarded and extremely tight-lipped, I'd rather not speculate about how the decision to abruptly yank Kai from the NBA doorstep was arrived at until I speak to them.
For now, I'd have to settle with the quiet comfort of letting my grief marinate.