CHICAGO - The short-lived tenure of Orlando Johnson as import for San Miguel Beer was mostly pleasant.
Except for one ugly, uncomfortable wrinkle.
Before boarding a direct flight to Las Vegas via Philippine Airlines (PAL) at 9 0'clock tonight, the NBA veteran expressed to me his frustration about his teammate's lack of playing time.
"Simon Enciso is one of the best guards in the PBA. I hate how they make him look. It disappoints me he's not even getting a chance. No opportunities make no sense. Why have him and don't use him?"
A five-star import with stellar credentials, Johnson's best legacy by far is unearthing the mystery behind Ensico's curious lack of playing time.
In San Miguel's last five games, Enciso logged just a total of 15 minutes and 53 seconds. He carded a DNP (Did Not Play) versus Ginebra on February 20 and another against Rain or Shine last March 3. The team went 2-3 in that span.
In contrast, newcomer Jericho Cruz, who has college ties with SMB coach Leo Austria literally walks from the street and straight into the rotation where he clocked 11 minutes and 11 seconds against RoS.
I get all that coaches' prerogative thing, but does fairness end when favoritism begins?
I mean Cruz is a good player, but Enciso once led the league in scoring. He is an outstanding teammate, too. First to get to the gym, last to leave. A positive locker room presence, Simon's name had never been once dragged in a controversy.
ALL THAT SIMON DOES IS BRING 5 FEET AND 11 INCHES OF HUSTLE AND 185 RUGGED POUNDS OF FIGHT.
Why not utilize such a valuable asset?
Coach Austria can legitimately hide in the premise that the Beermen have a glut of guards and there just isn't enough minutes for everyone.
But why pry him from the market in the first place, a move that decimated Terrafirma?
Also, a DNP, really?
And when does indifference turn into mistreatment?
Sadly for San Miguel, Enciso is not alone in his plight.
There are more dead bodies on that bench - Von Pessmal and Paul Zamar, to name a few.
Barely playing or sometimes not playing at all, these players could have thrived elsewhere but San Miguel allegedly lured them away from the competition with bigger pay and perks.
The result is league imbalance.
And for some players, the slow, excruciating decline of a career.
COACHES' SPAT. Coach Topex Robinson insisted there was no malice in him calling a timeout with seconds to go and Phoenix leading by 5 over Alaska.
"It was all about the quotient," which would factor in the playoffs if the Super LPG falls to 6-5 with a few other teams, Robinson told me over the phone.
But Alaska's bench boss, Jeff Cariaso, sent me a text message insisting the timeout was "unnecessary at that point. Just don't add insult to injury."
I understand where both coaches are coming from and find no fault from either.
Topex and Jeff are buddies and when the heat of the moment subsides, hopefully both coaches can turn this little friction into a rekindling of their friendship.
For now, though, it seems clear that both guys need a timeout from each other.
You can call that break a spice of life.