NOT a few fans were surprised to see NLEX leave out Carlo Lastimosa from its lineup for the coming PBA season.
Lastimosa not too long ago was one of the rising stars of the PBA, a crafty scorer with a swagger and confidence seen only from special players.
So it's quite a surprise to see NLEX leave him unprotected on the free agent list even if he's still under contract until 2019.
Intrigued, we asked NLEX coach Yeng Guiao who simply said the son of former Mama's Love forward Danny Lastimosa got lost in a crowded Road Warriors backcourt.
"We had to unload some guards and the coaching staff felt we had to let go of Carlo," said Guiao, who holds a concurrent role as NLEX general manager.
Curiously, the decision process involved Jojo Lastimosa, carlo's uncle who is the top assistant of Guiao in the NLEX coaching staff.
Lastimosa, 27, wasted no time proving himself in the PBA after being picked in the second round at 20th overall by Barako Bull in 2013.
He was traded to Blackwater in 2015 for Brian Heruela and was even signed to a lucrative three-year deal by the Elite in April 2016.
However, with his rise came talk of late nights and missed practices which were somehow masked by his big performances during games.
The rumors only grew louder when a Blackwater side lacking in talent sti?l let go of its top scoring threat in a trade for NLEX reserve James Forrester and a second round pick in the 2016 PBA draft in October last year.
Guiao inherited Lastimosa when he took over at NLEX and turned to the six-foot guard in key situations last season.
The NLEX coach, however, explained that the emegence of Kevin Alas and the arrival of top rookie Kiefer Ravena simply left no room for Lastimosa in the lineup.
That, Guiao said,was more or less the case with veteran guard Jonas Villanueva who was likewise dropped to the unrestricted free agent list.
Guiao said NLEX had 17 players under contract in the offseason and the fight for places only become fiercer after the Road Warriors coach brought in former players Jonathan Uyloan and Ronjay Buenafe.
In the end, Buenafe and Uyloan were placed on the reserve/injured list while Lastimosa and co. got the ax.
Asked about Lastimosa, Guiao said he didn't give much attention to the rumors swirling around the flamboyant player and insisted these didn't factor into the decision to drop him.
"We decided based on merits," Guiao said.