SMART Clark GIGA City — CJ Perez felt like he was at a family reunion, Tuesday afternoon at the Smart 5G-powered AUF Sports and Cultural Center.
Facing him on the other side of the court was his second father Topex Robinson and brother Calvin Abueva.
This was only the second time the two have faced off in the PBA hardcourt, since Abueva was slapped with a 512-day ban by the league.
But unlike their encounter back on January 23 — which Phoenix won 108-98 over the then-Columbian Dyip 3 Perez saw a huge difference in Abueva’s approach to the game this time around.
“Sobrang saya ko na nakabalik na siya. Ang tagal niyang hindi nakalaro. Ibang Calvin ‘yung naglalaro ngayon, hindi parang ‘yung dati,” Perez, who is six years Abueva’s junior, told Tiebreaker Times.
“Same energy pero relax na siya. Hindi na parang dati na maraming extra-curricular.”
During that 16-month ban, Abueva underwent several anger management seminars and interventions. And their effects show, since the native of Pampanga has been at ease during his return so far, letting the game come to him.
Besides seeing Abueva for the first time, this was also Perez’s first chance to face Robinson as a full-time head coach.
“Siyempre happy ako para sa kanya. Alam ko na isa sa mga nasa listahan niya ‘yun eh.
“Tsaka ‘yung mga kasama niya dun, talagang pinagkakatiwalaan niya, kaya hindi siya nahirapan,” said Perez, who, together with Robinson, turned the Lyceum basketball program from cellar-dwellers to contenders overnight.
It was not a happy reunion for Perez, though. Terrafirma ended up suffering a 94-116 beating at the hands of Phoenix.
This, despite Perez dropping 32 points, nine rebounds, five assists, and a steal.
Terrafirma has yet to win inside the PBA bubble.
“‘Yun ‘yung hinahanap namin. Hirap kasi kahit ang ganda ng laro mo, hindi ka nananalo. Wala lang din kwenta ‘yung nilaro mo,” expressed Perez, who has been averaging 26.33 points, 7.33 rebounds, 4.67 assists, and 2.5 steals per contest.
“Stay positive lang kami. May five games pa.”
Of course, Perez is missing his wife Sienna and kids Ciana and Teyana already.
But what he misses also is the sweet feeling of a triumph.
“Miss ko na manalo.”