A SLIGHT dip in the performance of top MVP contender Arwind Santos in the PBA Governors' Cup semifinals has opened the door for others to make a last-ditch run at the highly-coveted individual award.
Dennis Pineda, who represents the lanky Petron Blaze forward, expressed concern over how the decline in Santos’ numbers could affect his chance of finally bagging his first MVP award in the pro league.
After averaging 14.5 points, 10 rebounds, and 3.0 blocks in the eliminations, Santos' numbers dipped to 9.25 points, 9.0 rebounds, and 1.5 block shots in four semifinal games that saw the Boosters oust the Rain or Shine Elasto Painters.
Among those still in the hunt are Barangay Ginebra star guard LA Tenorio and Santos' stablemate Calvin Abueva, with balloting among mediamen, officials and fellow players having a big say in the result.
Pineda, the longtime benefactor of Santos who’s also the vice-governor of Pampanga, believes the MVP plum could have already been in the bag for Santos by now had he maintained his impressive numbers during the eliminations.
“Kung hindi bumaba, in the bag na in the bag na siguro sa kaniya 'yun (MVP),” Pineda confided to Spin.ph.
The Pampanga official admitted having a serious talk with Santos about the matter.
“Medyo natatakot nga ako 'dun. Kaya kinausap ko siya. Sabi ko, ‘Bakit bumaba 'ata ang stats mo? Hindi kita gaanong naramdaman?’ Bumaba kasi talaga,” said the man who also represents Alaska rookie Abueva, and upcoming Ian Sangalang and Ronald Pascual.
But Santos stressed he knows where he stands right now as far as the MVP award is concerned.
“Cut-off naman na yun, alam ko pagpasok na ng semis. Wala na kasi magagawa `yung players ng mga na-eliminate. Maiiwan nang husto sa stats,” Santos said.
“Saka mas nag-focus na lang rin kasi ako sa pag panalo para sa team ko,” said the former UAAP MVP out of Far Eastern University. “Saka mas maganda nilalaro namin pag balanced ang score. Kaya ako, depensa na lang ng depensa.”
At the same time, Pineda is still hoping against hope about the chances of Abueva of winning the Rookie of the Year and MVP award in the same season – a special feat only done in the league once during the 1989 season by cage great Benjie Paras.
After two MVP-like conferences, Abueva’s performance also declined during the season-ending tournament, averaging only 8.5 points, 9.0 rebounds and 2.45 assists - a far cry from his average of 12.5 points and 9.1 rebounds during the Philippine Cup and Commissioner’s Cup, respectively.
“Hindi ko naman sinusuko `yung MVP para kay Calvin, pero Rookie of the Year lang masaya na ako para sa kanya,” Pineda said.
This developed as the soft-spoken local government official also admitted how rookie big man June Mar Fajardo has immensely improved in the ongoing conference for top seed Petron.
“Maganda ang nilalaro ni June Mar ngayon ha. Ang laki ng ini-improve nung bata,” he said. “Pero palagay ko naman malaki na `yung naipundar ni Calvin noong All-Filipino at Commissioner’s Cup sa stats.”
“Saka parang isang conference ang nilamang ni Calvin sa kanya sa stats kasi na-injure si June Mar di ba? Pero hindi ko naman sinasabi na huli na. May laban pa rin si June Mar,” added the son of Pampanga governor Lilia Pineda.