Calvin Abueva’s rehabilitation just got a confirmation.
And from the Philippine Basketball Association’s (PBA) foremost bad boy, the Phoenix Super LPG forward despised by legions just a couple of years back, can complete his transformation to becoming a real role model.
The list of candidates the league released on Thursday included the names of the brightest performers in the Philippine Cup inside the Clark bubble last year, but the biggest story is not that Abueva is vying for the Best Player of the Conference (BPC) award, but also for the Sportsmanship Award given—practically—to the most behaved player of the season.
Well, in this case, a tournament.
‘Calvin can change’
“I was surprised,” Phoenix coach Topex Robinson told the Inquirer over the phone on Tuesday when asked to comment on the award Abueva is chasing. Again, his remark wasn’t for the BPC. “That only goes to show that Calvin can change for the better. After all that he has gone through, in life and that [16-month] suspension, he’s a changed man.
“And the good thing about this is I think he can win it (Sportsmanship Award),” Robinson said. “His numbers and the way he performed has him as a front-runner for the best player [award]. But I think he deserves the other award more than anyone else.”
Ray Parks Jr. and TNT teammate RR Pogoy, Stanley Pringle of Barangay Ginebra, Matthew Wright, also of Phoenix, and Terrafirma’s CJ Perez included the other candidates for the BPC, even as Abueva has the players with virtual halos like Gabe Norwood of Rain or Shine, Scottie Thompson of Ginebra, NLEX’ Kevin Alas and Perez as fellow candidates for the sportsmanship citation.
Abueva was reactivated a couple of weeks into the bubble after serving a 16-month suspension for clotheslining TNT import Terrence Jones and doing a lewd gesture on Parks’ girlfriend in another instance.
It was the longest suspension meted out by the commissioner’s office on a local player, an unprecedented penalty that later on had fans appealing to commissioner Willie Marcial on social media at the height of the coronavirus pandemic.
“The challenge for him now is how he will stay that way,” Robinson, who also had a breakout stint as the new coach of the Fuel Masters, who he guided to within a win of the title series only to lose to eventual runner-up TNT.
Robinson recalled several instances during Game 5 of their semifinal series with the Tropang Giga, during the dying minutes when everyone on the Phoenix bench and all those on the floor for the Fuel Masters already knew that they had lost that series.
“There were times there where the Calvin of two years ago could have blown his top and did something nasty [to the opposing team],” he said. “But he kept on playing, kept on fighting to give us a chance.
“That’s when I saw that he is a reformed man. That we have the Calvin that really can play the game the right way.”
Marcial did right
Robinson, contrary to what many critics of Marcial are saying, said that the indefinite PBA ban really helped Abueva realize how important his career is.
“And [commissioner Marcial] really has a genuine concern with regards to Calvin’s well-being,” Robinson said. “That suspension really helped Calvin and it was bolstered by the concern that Marcial showed him. [Marcial] even went to Calvin [before exiting the bubble], just to wish him well.”
Robinson believes that being in the bubble helped Abueva a lot, primarily because outside influences were shut out and that Abueva had no one but teammates to talk to coming from a win or a loss.
He admitted to being scared when they left the Clark facility, because he wouldn’t be able to see Abueva for close to the next two months before the team convenes again.
“But so far, every time I talk to him, he is still the Calvin I last saw inside the bubble,” Robinson said.
“That’s a good sign for our team and that’s good for the league,” he ended. —With a report from Denison Rey A. Dalupang INQ
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