In the aftermath of Abueva's departure last February 2021, Vic Manuel, Justin Chua, and most recently, Chris Banchero made a beeline to the revolving doors.
But the Fuel Masters intend to keep the biggest fish in their little independent pond: Matthew Wright.
"We are doing what we can. We have expressed that we want him to be the franchise's anchor," Phoenix manager Paolo Bugia told me.
But Wright, who also communicated with me the other day, expressed his frustrations that his mother team hadn't replied to his "counter-offer."
To which, Bugia replied, "as previously stated, we made Matt a very lucrative offer, one that this management feels is objective and fitting to what he brought to this franchise."
Obviously, the desire to stay together is mutual.
But money, and one's interpretation of the word "lucrative" are the primary obstacles in this budding union between Phoenix and its one true remaining star player.
From what I've been hearing, Phoenix is a stickler for rules, and with its budget limitations, is likely to stick only with what's allowed under the PBA's so-called salary cap of no more than P550,000 a month.
That won't make Wright whole.
If Robert Bolick got paid a reported $22,000 a month by NorthPort, Matthew, arguably the better guard, sure can command a heftier pay.
And that's where the overseas teams come into play.
Jason Brickman just inked a three-year deal north of $12,000 a month with the Kaoshiung Aquas of the Taiwan league. The transaction went seamlessly with both parties walking away with smiles so wide you'd think a hanger was stuck in their mouths.
Can Bugia pull off some financial gymnastics and strike a deal?
Wright is hoping so because he'd rather stay in the Philippines where some of his businesses, and most of his family, are.
By the same token, Matthew is not playing for charity. He wants to get paid, just like everyone else.
Right now, though, Japan is where the moolah is.
When the deadline to declare for the 2022 NBA draft lapsed on April 24, I asked Kai Sotto's agent if the 7-foot-4 phenom did in fact enter his name in the list.
"I'll let you know," was the response Joel Bell gave.
But sometime yesterday, a friend who works for the NBA relayed to me the information that Sotto did not officially declare.
This means Kai won't be able to join the draft combine here in Chicago and get scouted by teams looking for size to bolster their line-ups.
This also doesn't mean Kai won't be in the NBA next season because he is eligible to be signed as an international player.
My guess is that he stays one more year in the NBL in Australia and continues to make great strides before making the big leap.
KEEPING TABS WITH BALDWIN
Indonesia is very interested in having coach Tab Baldwin run their national team program, a source told me.
There's just one problem. The money they are willing to pay is only somewhere around $20,000 a month, which is nowhere near what the tactically superior coach makes at Ateneo.
But two oil-rich nations are also knocking on Baldwin's door.
To those suitors, money is not an object.
Will Tab bite and get away from the drama that surrounds him in the Philippines?
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