Lots of mystery: What happened to Chris Lutz?

It’s been two years since Chris Lutz has seen action in the Philippine Basketball Association.

Once a promising player with an enviable skill set, it’s depressing how his career went into a downward spiral. In contrast, his former Gilas teammate Marcio Lassiter is thriving with the San Miguel Beermen. But where is Chris Lutz now? Will he go back to the PBA? The answers to these questions are more fiction than fact.

Soaring with Gilas and entering the PBA

After stints of NCAA Division 1 Basketball with the Purdue Boilermakers and the Marshall Thundering Herd, Lutz became a member of the original Gilas Pilipinas squad under coach Rajko Toroman. He showed his sharp shooting from the perimeter as well as his solid defense when he played under the flag’s colors during the 2010 Asian Games, 2010 FIBA Asia Cup, 2011 FIBA Asia Championship, and the FIBA Asia Champions Cups of both years.

He entered the 2011 PBA Rookie Draft after playing with the national team and was selected third overall by the Barako Bull Energy after Jvee Casio and Paul Lee. However, he was traded on draft day to Petron together with Carlo Sharma and Dondon Hontiveros for Sunday Salvacion, Mick Pennisi, and the Blaze Boosters’ eighth overall selection in the same draft, which turned out to be Allein Maliksi.

Petron gets a boost from the rookie

As far as his basketball skill set is concerned, there was nothing more you can ask from the pride of New Hampshire. He had a quick first step that enabled him to blow past defenders or pull out a nasty crossover to showcase his unlimited shooting range. He could play off screens to catch the ball and launch a quick shot, which often finds the bottom of the net. Lutz could make plays for himself or for teammates, too, if the play became dysfunctional. Don’t forget that he could play above the rim too. If that wasn’t enough, he did a decent job of locking down opponents, especially the bigger guards.

These traits saw him as a vital spark plug to a Petron team that already had talented players such as Hontiveros, Arwind Santos, Alex Cabagnot, Rob Reyes, Jay Washington, Danny Ildefonso, and Joseph Yeo in the rotation. During his 32-game rookie season, he did not disappoint as he posted career highs of 15.4 points, 3.4 rebounds, and 3.5 assists per game in 35.5 minutes played. He had a legitimate claim to the Rookie of the Year honors but was eventually edged by Lee.

The downfall begins

From there, a promising career was halted by injuries. Sensing this, the franchise must have gazed into a crystal ball and traded for Marcio Lassiter and Celino Cruz for Rabeh Al-Hussaini, Lordy Tugade, and Rey Guevarra. The former Powerade Tiger eventually won their friendly struggle for playing time and by their second season in the PBA, Lassiter was averaging 29.2 minutes while Lutz was logging in 26.1. The latter didn’t crack a 30-minute per game average again, while Super Marcio’s stay on the floor increased to 30.9 minutes a night in his third year.

As for Lutz, his points per game averages from year two to five were 8.4, 8.6, 7.6, and 3.6, respectively. Though he was still a steady contributor for three Beermen championship teams, he was not the same explosive player. Decimated by a hip injury, he himself admitted that he was feeling pain in his foot, back, and knee as well. By the 2015-2016 season, his struggle to stay healthy trimmed his minutes to 16.2 per contest in only 34 games played. Despite seeking for regular treatment and undergoing constant therapy, Lutz never regained his rookie season shape.

These factors led the SMC ball club to place Lutz in the Unrestricted Free Agent with Right to Salary list (UFAWR2S) even if he had a year left in his contract. Eventually, the Meralco Bolts signed him in January 2017 – but the deal looks like a lost bet for Lutz never suited for the squad in an official PBA game.

Where is Chris Lutz?

In an interview with Meralco head coach Norman Black last November 2017, he mentioned that Lutz has not recovered from his injury. This pushed back the original plan for him to return during that season’s Commissioner’s Cup. The Governor’s Cup came and he was poised for a comeback, but as the Bolts fell to Ginebra in six championship games, there was still no sign of the 6’ 3” Filipino-American guard-forward.

Even social media doesn’t give much about his whereabouts. His most recent Instagram photo was a dedication for his girlfriend Ashley Cayuca in time for Valentines Day 2018. Even his significant other’s IG has no recent shoutouts about him. There are no footprints on Twitter either, as his last post was in March 2017. Head over to Facebook and his last update was a request to support Gilas in July 2017.

At age 33 and a shell of who he once was due to numerous handicaps, it seems like his best basketball years are behind him. Those who have witnessed him at his best are hoping for one more push to glory. But even if he did, he would have to contend for minutes on a solid Bolts backcourt of Baser Amer, Chris Newsome, Mike Tolomia, Garvo Lanete, and Anjo Caram. Until then, we could only speculate how great he could have been and bask in the highlights he left during his five-year career.

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