MANILA, Philippines -- Calvin Abueva has yet to receive the go-signal to play for the Phoenix Super LPG Fuel Masters in the 2020 PBA Philippine Cup, but "The Beast" continues to find ways to help his team.
After their 116-98 rout of Meralco to open their campaign, Phoenix interim head coach Topex Robinson said Abueva has been "the best practice player" for the Fuel Masters in their lead-up to the conference.
Abueva has been suspended since June 2019 after a series of on-court incidents, but the franchise is hopeful that he will soon be allowed to play again. PBA commissioner Willie Marcial allowed him to join the Fuel Masters in the bubble, and the Games and Amusements Board also reinstated his professional license.
"We're excited that we have Calvin here," Robinson said after their triumph over the Bolts. "We don't know when he's gonna be playing."
"But… Calvin knows that Calvin is a piece of this team but Calvin is not the whole of this team," he also stressed. "We would love to have him, but it's also not an excuse for us not to compete without Calvin."
The Fuel Masters showed that they can get it done without Abueva on Monday, with Matthew Wright leading the way. The swingman exploded for 36 points, making 11 of his 23 shots to power his team's rout.
Jason Perkins and Justin Chua each had 17 points, and the Fuel Masters made 17 of their 39 attempts from beyond the arc.
According to Robinson, they kept Abueva in their minds when they took to the floor.
"We are doing this for Calvin. He's really been the best practice player of our team. He's also one of our coaches right now. I've never seen him coach a team like that," said Robinson, who coached Abueva during his collegiate years in San Sebastian College.
"Sabi ko nga, huwag mo muna akong tanggalan ng trabaho. Player ka muna, coach ako," he said in jest.
Even though Abueva cannot contribute to their actual games yet, he remains "a blessing" to the squad, said Robinson.
"He's in his happy place, he loves to be with us, he loves to be with his team. We're excited when the time comes that he's gonna be with us," he added.
It remains to be seen when Abueva will finally get approval from the league to play again. The Fuel Masters return to action on Thursday against NorthPort.