ALASKA Aces fans were left puzzled on why rising star Calvin Abueva was not fielded in during Sunday’s PBA Philippine Cup game against the Globalport Batang Pier at the Big Dome.
The official word from the team was that the controversial sophomore was benched due to a sprained ankle, although sources in the team said Abueva was disciplined by head coach Luigi Trillo for missing the Aces' practice on Saturday.
“Nag-sacrifice si coach (Luigi Trillo) to sanction him," said a team insider who asked not to be named. "Wala tayong magagawa, it’s a case of disciplinary action.”
Sources added the benching had nothing to do with the scuffle Abueva got involved in on Friday night against Jared Dillinger in the Aces' loss to Meralco.
Whatever the reason was for the benching, Trillo never bothered to explain as he left the Smart Araneta Coliseum immediately after the Aces' 88-91 overtime loss to GlobalPort without saying a word to sportswriters.
“He left early. Nauna na siya sa lahat,” said one player from the Aces when asked where Trillo was.
Even Alaska team manager Dickie Bachmann refused to answer queries from Spin.ph about the Abueva situation, saying "the best man to respond is Trillo."
Trillo, unfortunately, was not answering phone calls at posting time.
Still, there is more to Abueva's benching than meets the eye, according to a league official who bared that the former NCAA MVP out of San Sebastian is really nursing an injured ankle but looked in bright mood and ready to play before game time.
“Natapilok rin kasi talaga yun pero nagulat ako. Kasi before the game, nakatawa pa sa akin at sabi niya okay daw siya," said the league official. "Noong halftime na, may sprain na daw.”
Alaska center Sonny Thoss merely shook his head when asked about Abueva, but the hardworking big man said he missed the gungho forward’s aggressiveness and energy on the court.
“It hurt us a little bit. His intensity and his rebounding were sorely missed. We could have used them in getting those rebounds at the crucial stretch of the game, but what else can we do,” Thoss said, obviously concerned with Alaska’s 4-9 win-loss record - the second worst slate so far in the conference.
Some fans of the team, however, said they understood Trillo's decision but nonetheless called for Abueva’s return to action, saying the enigmatic forward is a critical part of the team’s campaign.
“That’s political will on the part of the coaching staff. Sana hindi muna, pero call niya yun eh. Pero looking at the bigger picture, medyo malabo na rin kami (to make to the playoffs),” said longtime Aces fan Rey Tan.
“Sana we just deal with this other ways. Fans deserve to see their healthy favorite players play. That’s what we pay for. Sana pinalagpas muna,” he added.