PBA: Is it time to lift Calvin Abueva’s suspension?

Calvin Abueva was riding high during the final leg of the 2018 PBA All-Star Weekend at the San Agustin Gym in Iloilo City. He was a beast on the floor, tallying 41 points and 27 rebounds for Gilas Pilipinas in a 157-141 loss against the Visayas All-Stars.

After that performance, he went missing in action.

He failed to notify the Alaska Aces management and coaching staff of his whereabouts regarding his more than a week’s absence in practice while allegedly spending time in Baguio City. This unacceptable behavior prompted team owner Wilfred Steven Uytengsu to suspend Abueva indefinitely effective June 9. Uytengsu’s statement, which was posted on the Aces’ social media accounts, read that the former San Sebastian Stag is still accountable to the team despite the personal issues he was besieged with.

As the PBA gives way to the third window of first round of the FIBA World Cup Asian qualifiers, the fiery forward has already missed five games for Alaska. However, he will suit up for Gilas Pilipinas in their away game against Chinese Taipei on the 29th of June.

But with a week’s time before his squad’s next PBA match, should The Beast be untamed out of suspension already?

A pattern of missing time

This was hardly the first time that Abueva skipped basketball-related activity. In June 2017, he was in danger of being cut from the FIBA Asia Cup roster due to his non-participation in any of the four Gilas practices. He was eventually included in the roster and cited “attending to personal matters” as the reason for his lengthy absence. His non-inclusion would be a heavy blow to an already-depleted squad with naturalized player Andray Blatche not joining the team.

This also caused Abueva to miss an Alaska game against the Purefoods Star Hotshots, which the team lost. However, the Aces management did not suspend him despite the no-show. In a 2018 Philippine Cup game against Blackwater, he was seen warming up before the game but did not log in any minutes. He left early from the Smart-Araneta Coliseum to deal with a personal emergency.

Alaska gives Abueva a lesson

Given that the same incident has happened before, it’s no surprise that the Alaska Aces were fed up by Abueva’s actions. Yes, he is a vital contributor to the squad especially in bench points and rebounds. However, management has to make a stand that no player is above the team. Abueva may have valid reasons for missing those games and practices but hiding his whereabouts was unacceptable. A text message from him could have averted the suspension.

Perhaps the hardest lesson Calvin Abueva can digest is that he is expendable. The Aces had a 3-2 win-loss record during his suspension and Vic Manuel has flourished in his place, leading the Aces scoring attack in three of those games. But despite his suspension, Alaska still has his back. Even though he is not seeing action, coach Alex Compton confirmed that Abueva still receives his salaries but with a fine. This gesture shows that the Aces support their player especially in this trying time.

Rumor mills are running

The internet is ablaze with speculations that Alaska is preparing to trade Abueva for Filipino-German Christian Standhardinger of the San Miguel Beer. Those who support the theory claim that the Aces are already gauging how their team will roll post-Abueva, while the Beermen are trying to clear a logjam in their front court rotation. However, this is more fiction than fact. If it does happen, it would be challenging to find a niche for Abueva in the San Miguel rotation.

Let The Beast play, but with conditions

The Aces lost its last two games in blowout fashion. They were drubbed by Meralco, 89-74, before Ginebra gave them a beating, 105-86. To add insult to injury, the Gin Kings outclassed them on the boards, 67-46. This is the void that Abueva can fill. He has the tenacity to score despite limited playing time, as proven by his 10.4 points per game average in a little over 19 minutes per contest. It’s no question that he can grab a lot of rebounds as well even if he is giving up a few inches in height. Abueva is also a menace on the defensive end because he can disrupt passing lanes and block shots too.

Alaska will need his services if they want to succeed in the 2018 PBA Commissioner’s Cup. When the games get tougher, The Beast has the capacity to devour the opposition. But the management and the coaching staff can still be cautious regarding his return. With Manuel having a great conference, let him eat more minutes out of Abueva’s playing time. Likewise, they can make a bargain wherein he will be suspended for the rest of the season without pay if he leaves without word again.

Still, Calvin Abueva is more of an asset than a risk. Therefore, the Aces management must place him on the active roster once they resume action. However, they have to communicate that the six-time PBA All-Star is in his final card already. After all, he is still a part of an organization that upholds transparency and camaraderie. If he acts again as if he is beyond reproach, then Alaska must pull out the chips they bet on him.

With a storied tradition that spans over three decades, no player is above their ideals.

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