WILL it be the end of the road for Chris Tiu when Rain or Shine plays its final game of the season on Saturday in the PBA Governors Cup?
All signs point to Tiu hanging up his sneakers when the Elasto Painters, fittingly enough, battle former coach Yeng Guiao and NLEX in the curtain raiser of a post-Halloween doubleheader at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
With a 2-8 record, the Elasto Painters are already out of the running for a place in the quarterfinals of the season-ending conference.
Tiu, who won a championship with RoS in the 2016 Commissioner's Cup and was part of the team's four other finals stint, had hinted in the past about walking away from the game he loves most by the time Rain or Shine ends its campaign in the league’s 43rd season.
The former Ateneo star, who has played his entire six-year pro career for Rain or Shine since being picked by the franchise in the first round of the 2012 rookie draft (7th overall), has a contract that expires at the end of the season and he hasn’t sat down with team management for a possible renewal.
Co-team owner Raymund Yu said the 33-year-old Tiu, also a well-known host and TV personality, has not talked about his plans yet, although he has long told management about possible retirement as early as the season-opening Philippine Cup.
“I think so,” Yu replied when asked if the game with the Road Warriors will be Tiu’s last with the franchise and in the league.
“Tagal ng nakaplano, e,” he added.
Longtime PBA cheerleader Jun Nuestro, known around the league as ‘Sharon,’ said Tiu already told members of his fans club ‘Tiunatics’ to have a photo with him shortly after the game against NLEX.
“Nung practice nila kanina (Friday), kinausap niya na kami na after the game, magpakuha kami ng picture sa kanya,” Sharon said.
“Grupo daw kami ng mga fans niya na kasama niya sa photo,” added the transgender cheerleader, who felt a bit sad about Tiu’s planned retirement as it comes two days before Sharon celebrates her own birthday.
If he does retire, at least Tiu will be going out at the top of his game.
After being part of the original Smart Gilas Pilipinas, he got a chance to play for the national team anew as the core of Rain or Shine made up half of the Philippine squad that placed fifth in the last Asian Games in Jakarta, Indonesia.
And in the Governors Cup, he twice broke his career-scoring record, the last happening just last week when he finished with 24 points in a 103-97 loss to Phoenix.
Tiu admitted in the past his many commitments – both in his family's various business interests and showbusiness – have kept him from focusing on his playing career.
“I have a lot of other commitments and a lot of new ventures and projects that require my time and concentration,” he disclosed.
“After the Philippine Cup, I could have legally opted out of my contract already,” Tiu added. “So it’s really a conference to conference basis depending on the development of these other ventures and commitments that I have.”