ALASKA veteran Dondon Hontiveros believes Calvin Abueva has a real shot at becoming the first PBA player in 24 years to win an MVP award as a rookie and is willing to help his teammate achieve the unique feat.
“Sa laro at ginagawa ni Calvin para sa team namin sa first two conferences, malaking bagay talaga yun para maging rookie at MVP siya,” said Hontiveros. “Sana talaga makuha ni Calvin yung rookie-MVP (award).”
However, Hontiveros admits that Abueva being unpopular among fellow players stands as the biggest stumbling block in his bid to join 1989 MVP Benjie Paras as the league's only rookies to pull off the feat.
Votes from players and the media form a major part of the MVP balloting.
“Alam ko mahihirapan siya o talo siya sa players votes. Sa media votes, pwedeng humabol siya. So 'yun ang kailangan niyang i-work on - appreciation from other players,” the 13-year veteran said.
“Sa statistics, walang problema si Calvin… Talagang siya ang LeBron (James) namin eh!”
Hontiveros, one of the most affable players in the league, said he is willing to 'mediate' on Abueva's behalf to make other players better understand his controversial Aces teammate.
“Oo siyempre, bakit hindi. Kung kailangan, gagawin ko 'yun. Alam naman natin sa laro kasi niya na relentless, maraming galit kay Calvin,” he said. “Pero gagawin ko yun (talk to other players)."
With his impressive rookie averages of 14.17 points, 10.08 rebounds, 2 assists, 1.42 steals and 1.08 blocks per game, Abueva needs only a strong performance in the season-ending Governors Cup to figure prominently in the MVP balloting, Hontiveros said.
“Pag nag-finals at nag-champion kami ulit, I’m sure mas lalaki ang tsansa ni Calvin na maging rookie-MVP," the 12-time All-Star said. "As a teammate, gustong gusto ko na makuha niya.”
Hontiveros believes Talk 'N Text stars Ranidel De Ocampo and Jason Castro and Petron superstar Arwind Santos stand as the biggest threat to Abueva in the MVP race.
“Malakas niya kalaban yung mga 'yun. Pero kung magpapatuloy ang magandang laro ng team namin, lalamang si Calvin nun. Alam ko naman yun (championship) ang goal niya,” added Hontiveros.
Meanwhile, Abueva’s adviser said the player's attitude on the floor is just a defense mechanism he developed as he rose from poverty to become one of the PBA’s most prominent players.
“Tingin lang talagang maangas si Calvin. Pero napakabait niyang batang 'yan. Siya kasi 'yung tao na hindi mo pwedeng husgahan base sa nakikita mo. Kailangan makilala mo muna siya ng lubusan,” said lawyer Charles Chua, a known confidante of Abueva’s manager, Pampanga vice governor Dennis Pineda.
Chua is aware of how Abueva has created a bad impression among fans and fellow players.
“Kahit sa mga team na nilaruan niya, lagi siyang napapagkamalang mayabang. Pero pag naging close na siya … minamahal siya nang husto ng mga kakampi niya,” added Chua.