CALVIN Abueva was, bar none, the story for Phoenix Pulse in 2019 as his presence as well as his absence played a major effect on the Fuel Masters’ campaign in the PBA, for better or for worse.
Here are the highs and the lows of the Fuel Masters in 2019.
Highest seed in franchise history
The Fuel Masters were off to a spectacular start, going a franchise-record 5-0 on their way to the top seed in the PBA Philippine Cup playoffs on a 9-2 card. But after a victory over eighth-seed Alaska in the quarterfinals, the Fuel Masters’ title bid was derailed by San Miguel, which sent Phoenix Pulse crashing back to earth with a 4-1 series win in a highly-physical semifinal affair.
Abueva suspended indefinitely
The Fuel Masters’ campaign in 2019 suffered a major setback last June 2 when Calvin Abueva decked TNT import Terrence Jones with a clothesline in an incident that also drew worldwide attention. After a review, PBA commissioner Willie Marcial slapped Abueva with an indefinite suspension for the hit on Jones.
Abueva was also fined P50,000 for the Jones incident, and P20,000 for a prior incident in which he gestured lewd acts in the direction of Bobby Ray Parks’ girlfriend Maika Rivera during a game against Blackwater.
After the PBA sanction, Abueva was also caught on social media playing in a ligang labas game in Rodriguez, Rizal, prompting Phoenix management to also fine their enigmatic star.
Last September 26, Abueva rejoined Phoenix Pulse’s practice after being given the green light by the PBA. Abueva has also since taken part in several outreach programs as part of the requirements by the league so that his sanction will finally be lifted.
Fuel Masters struggle without Abueva
With Abueva not around, the Fuel Masters struggled in their final two conferences of 2019. After an impressive showing in the Philippine Cup, Phoenix finished only 10th in the Commissioner’s Cup with a 4-7 win-loss record. The Fuel Masters did worse in the Governors’ Cup as they ranked just 11th with a 3-8 card.
Doug Kramer retires, RR Garcia returns
Phoenix gave RR Garcia a second chance after the former Far Eastern University standout was signed to a contract last September in the Governors’ Cup. Garcia found a new home after eight months in the TNT freezer. Garcia’s presence was immediately felt and on October 9, he sank a point-blank game-winning shot in an 86-84 win over Rain or Shine.
The 2019 season, however, also saw team captain Doug Kramer saying goodbye after he announced his retirement last November 14. Two days later, Phoenix gave Kramer a tribute as the Fuel Masters beat Blackwater in overtime, 120-117.
Wright, Perkins win SEA Games gold
Two Phoenix players were selected to play for Gilas Pilipinas in international competitions this year. After missing the Fiba World Cup lineup due to an injury, Matthew Wright made it to the 12-man roster of Gilas Pilipinas in the Southeast Asian Games, where the team, as expected, won the gold in front of home fans.
Jason Perkins, meanwhile, also made it to SEA Games, but with the men’s 3x3 team where he along with Chris Newsome, CJ Perez, and Mo Tautuaa won the gold in the event’s debut in the biennial meet.