DANNY Ildefonso's final months with Petron were far from smooth, and it included a scuffle with a team utility staff toward the end of last season, sources bared to Spin.ph.
The two-time MVP, who has spent his entire PBA career with the San Miguel Corp-controlled ballclub, became an unrestricted free agent on Saturday when he was informed through a text message that Petron would not be offering him a new contract.
Before that, he was told not to report to practice days before the start of the season, after earning the ire of team management for his frank comments on moves made by the ballclub over the past few years.
But sources said there were already ominous signs that a successful 15-year partnership between player and team would end badly even before last season's Governors Cup Finals after Ildefonso went after a team staff, reportedly because of comments he made about the player's diminishing playing time.
“Nagalit si Danny I kaya sinugod niya yung staffer. Syempre ang laki niya hindi na nakapalag 'yung tao. Pero punit-punit 'yung damit nung tao 'nung bitawan niya,” said the source on the shoving incident.
Spin.ph tried to seek comment from the utility staff involved but he chose not to speak, saying he would rather stay silent so as not to worry his family especially his children.
“Wag na lang. Basta ang masasabi ko rito, ipinagpasa Diyos ko na lang ang lahat ng nagawa niya,” said the staffer.
Sought for comment, Petron Gee Abanilla made no effort to deny the incident happened but begged off from talking about the issue.
“No comment na lang ako, please,” he said.
On the other hand, former Petron guard Denok Miranda confirmed the incident but did not give details, saying he was late for practice "when it happened."
Spin.ph tried to contact Ildefonso, but he could not be reached at posting time.
But while the incident continued to be an issue, at least there were no longer any hard feelings between Ildefonso and Serbian coach Rajko Toroman, now that both are out of the Petron camp.
Toroman's stay as active consultant with the Blaze Boosters had been both brief and tumultuous, marked by constant tension between the former Gilas coach and the team's veterans - something Toroman made no effort to deny.
“There are some players who would not want to go out of their comfort zone, it’s the reason why we were not in a good relation because I was thinking that time they need to work fast,” said Toroman on the eve of his departure on Sunday for his native Serbia.
“We cannot make the level of the practice according to the veteran. We need to develop the talented young players and make them better … so that’s when the misunderstanding from me and Danny… just the low level of practice. He wants to go low level, I want to go high level.”
Still, Toroman claimed he and Ildefonso were back in good terms in the months after he left the ballclub.
“We met a few times… we just say hello to each other. We don’t have any trouble,” Toroman said.
[Listen to the podcast of Rajko Toroman’s full interview here:]