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Phoenix to 'finally focus on basketball' after Abueva trade

Phoenix had the intention to build a long-term relationship with Calvin Abueva, but the team eventually came to the conclusion to move forward without the enigmatic forward.

Team manager Paolo Bugia said the situation presented itself that Magnolia proposed a trade for Abueva in exchange for Chris Banchero and a higher pick in the March 14 draft.

Within days, the trade got the approval of the PBA.

"Everybody knows, it is no secret that Calvin is a very good basketball player, but it is not just basketball with him," Bugia told The Chasedown on Saturday, February 20.

"There are a lot of things and everybody knows that. It is all over social media, it is all over the news, and all that. We embraced that for a time, until it fell on our laps the offer of Magnolia."

Abueva endured an indefinite suspension from the PBA that lasted for 16 months after back-to-back on-court incidents that saw him figure in a verbal spat with a fan and clothesline former import Terrence Jones.

"The Beast" finally had his suspension lifted in the middle of the previous Philippine Cup, with Abueva almost helping Phoenix reach the PBA finals for the first time in franchise history.

Abueva further highlighted his PBA return with an Outstanding Five selection and a Sportsmanship Award nomination.

Seeing how Abueva turned his career around, Phoenix rewarded him with a three-year contract extension.

However, Phoenix decided to go on a different direction after Magnolia offered a trade for the 33-year-old star.

"Behind the scenes, unknown to a lot, obscure from the fans, there was a lot of time and effort to keep Calvin on track. Time and effort from the coaches, management, and even his teammates, the players," Bugia said.

"That is only between the team, it was a continuous effort, 24/7, to make sure that he was focused, that he will not go back to the dark places that he [was once at]," Bugia added.

"For a time, I think it was just last month, we felt like we were ready to commit, we were ready to build a long-term relationship with him. We signed him for a long-term contract."

"But then, there was still the time and effort, 24/7."

Bugia said the trade will pave the way for Phoenix to solely put its attention on basketball alone.

"With that offer, we felt like we have a superstar in his own right, Chris Banchero, something that we needed because we did not have a pure point guard to take the pressure off Matt (Wright) some times."

"On top of that, we got a lottery pick, a 6th pick, in some would say the most talent-rich draft," Bugia added.

"If there was a time that made our decision easier, it just happened that it was this year to move forward and we can finally focus on basketball without the extra baggage, so to speak."

While Abueva said in previous interviews that he was also taken by surprise by the deal, Bugia said Phoenix wanted to tell its former star player about the trade personally before news got out.

Bugia and Phoenix head coach Topex Robinson set a meeting with Abueva an hour before the trade was made public.

The meeting, though, did not push through.

"Regrettably, he said he did not wake up, so he woke up with text messages on his phone. That was very unfortunate," Bugia said.

"If we knew where he was, we would have driven there, but we found out he was in Pampanga."

Bugia said Abueva is in good hands at Magnolia.

"As consolation, we know Calvin is going to a good team." – Rappler.com

Delfin Dioquino

Delfin Dioquino dreamt of being a PBA player, but he did not have the skills to make it. So he pursued the next best thing to being an athlete – to write about them. He took up journalism at the University of Santo Tomas and joined Rappler as soon as he graduated in 2017.

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