PHOENIX mutually parted ways with Alex Mallari and Jay-R Reyes, thanking them for their services to the franchise especially in last year’s playoff run during the PBA Philippine Cup bubble.
Team manager Paolo Bugia confirmed both players are now free agents after management decided to let them go following the recent rookie draft.
The Fuel Masters said the decision was made during the Holy Week.
Bugia said the team was very transparent to both players, especially with the 34-year-old Mallari, who the Fuel Masters didn’t hold down when he became a free agent as early as January.
Management was open about its plan to take a look at the draft picks the Fuel Masters got from the rookie draft before making any decisions on the free-agent signings.
“We have to make a decision, although from the start, we’re transparent naman,” said Bugia.
“With Alex, hindi namin siya inipit. We told him that if ever there’s other opportunities, he’s also free to look, but we can’t guarantee him at the time yet. And we were in constant communication with his camp that we wanted to take a loof at the draft first,” stressed the Phoenix official.
“Si Jay-R, mutual din. When I called him about drafting another young big man and baka hindi na namin siya (ma-sign), he understood naman,” said Bugia, who added Reyes, 36, appears to be contemplating retirement.
The Phoenix executive described both Mallari and Reyes as professionals.
“Suwerte nga kami sa mga players namin, kapag nakikita nila yung situation, they understand. We’re very blessed to have them,” said Bugia.
Mallari and Reyes were part of the solid Phoenix group that came close to reaching the finals for the first time in franchise history during the Philippine Cup bubble. The Fuel Masters lost to TnT Tropang Giga in the do-or-die Game 5 of the semifinals after leading 2-1.
The 6-foot-4 Mallari submitted numbers of 4.4 points, 2.5 rebounds, and 1.7 assists in 10 games, while the 6-foot-7 Reyes, tapped from the free agent list, averaged 1.5 points and 1.3 rebounds in eight games.
Mallari was acquired by the Fuel Masters along with big man Dave Marcelo from NLEX in exchange for the No. 4 overall pick during the 2018 draft.
Unfortunately, the Fuel Masters are looking to go in a different direction this coming season behind a young roster, which meant giving up the likes of Mallari and Reyes.
“After the draft, tinignan nila coach Topex [Robinson] at ng management ang mga rookies and they decided to move forward with younger guards,” Bugia explained.
“We drafted several guards, very promising ones like (Aljun) Melecio, Reymar Caduyac, Jerie Pingoy. We drafted several (players) because we’re not only looking at the 5-on-5, but also the 3x3 tournament.”
Aside from the three, Phoenix also selected Larry Muyang, Nic Demusis, and Max Hentschel.
“We wish them the best. They’re an integral part also (of the team) last conference,” said Bugia of Mallari and Reyes.
“It just so happened the team is moving towards younger guards now, and coach Topex wants to build on them, and managemwent wants to see what kind of opportunity they have there.”