UNTIL things went horribly wrong over the past week, Danny Ildefonso was set for what was planned to be his swansong with Petron - the only team he has played for in his decorated, 14-year PBA career.
According to team insiders, the Blaze Boosters had planned to give the two-time MVP a chunk of playing time behind sophomore June Mar Fajardo this season to give their longtime star a fitting farewell in a league where he once was one of the most dominant players.
Upon his retirement, sources said, Ildefonso was supposed to settle into an executive position in one of the San Miguel-owned teams just like other great players who had played for the organization like Alvin Patrimonio (San Mig), Hector Calma (Petron), and Samboy Lim (Ginebra).
However, all those plans suddenly went out the window last Tuesday when the pride of Urdaneta, Pangasinan was told after practice that he was out of the lineup and a contract extension not forthcoming.
Ildefonso, sources said, had incurred the ire of team bosses over comments he had made about moves Petron has undertaken the last few years, from the trades that dealt away former stars Danny Seigle and Dondon Hontiveros to last season's firing of Olsen Racela as coach.
[For full story, see Where is Danny I? Ildefonso's sudden exit from Petron shrouded in mystery]
Two days before Petron begins its season with a PBA Governors' Cup game against Globalport at the Smart Araneta Coliseum, hopes are dim that Ildefonso would get back a spot in the rotation, although Petron still has two open reserve spots in its lineup.
One of those should have been Ildefonso's, a team insider said, before plans went awry.
“Kung makikita mo hindi gaanong gumalaw sa big man position ang team. Kasi inihahanda sa kanya eh,” said the source, who is still clueless if the plan will still be executed.
“Hindi ko alam. Pero hindi na siya pinapirma eh. So baka called off na,” he added.
Meanwhile, people close to Ildefonso said the 36-year-old many-time All-Star is still bent on talking to SMC officials led by big boss Ramon S. Ang and head of basketball operations Robert Non, in the hope of mending his relationship with a company which he said "he owes a lot to."
The latest buzz from the team is that Ildefonso has been offered a coaching contract, so he can continue the mentoring of Fajardo and the Blaze Boosters' other big men.
Ildefonso is not deciding on the offer until he has talked to the SMC bosses, the source added.