WITH the way his team has started the PBA Governors’ Cup, Meralco coach Ryan Gregorio is starting to regret his decision to let Bolts center Rabeh Al-Hussaini go on a leave of absence for a personal matter abroad just days before the start of the season-ending tournament.
What was initially agreed as a 10-day trip to Kuwait for Al-Hussaini has extended to 19 days and counting, leaving Gregorio and the Bolts without their big man as they sunk alarmingly to their fourth loss in a row.
The Meralco coach said he agreed to let Al-Hussaini travel to Kuwait for 10 days to take care of his papers. But the 6-foot-7 former PBA Rookie of the Year has yet to come back, leaving undersized forward Reynel Hugnatan and Cliff Hodge to man the paint for the team.
“I am responsible for that (Al-Hussaini’s absence this conference). I was in the US when he asked for permission if he can go to Kuwait for 10 days to fix his papers and just get his pension,” Gregorio said after his team's 90-108 loss at the hands of defending champion San Mig on Tuesday.
“I think, for humanitarian reasons, I told him, 'Rabs, you’re under contract, that’s gonna be hard. It’s a very short conference. But if you know my heart, I will agree to that (let Al-Hussaini leave for Kuwait) simply because I want a better future for you and your family,'” Gregorio said.
“'But please be back in ten days as what you’ve mentioned to me,' though it’s like nineteen days right now and it’s taking longer than expected,” lamented the Meralco coach.
Gregorio claimed that the gangling Meralco big man has not contacted him since leaving for the homeland of his father, opting instead to be in touch with Bolts team manager Butch Antonio.
“He has not contacted me, but he’s been in contact with our team manager. It’s disappointing because I cannot hold back on things like that,” he said.
The Meralco coach said he expects the team to impose a disciplinary action on the enigmatic four-year pro.
Gregorio said the Governors’ Cup could have been the perfect time for Al-Hussaini to step up considering that the imports are shorter and therefore, he’s in a better position to get the playing minutes.
“I have lofty plans for him. I traded key players just to get him on board. He’s part of our team in the future,” explained Gregorio of the 25-year-old Al-Hussaini.
“But with this, it’s hard to comprehend. How you can miss out, and pretty much like leave your teammates fighting and you’re somewhere doing something despite the fact that you know how critical for us to compete at the highest level for this conference,” he added.
Aside from missing Al-Hussaini, the Bolts are without playmaker Mike Cortez, who is still recovering from a knee injury, while Jared Dillinger was slowed down due to a recurring back problem.
The Bolts won’t play until Sunday and will try to map out their next plan as they play the Alaska Aces this weekend.