No less than PBA Commissioner Willie Marcial is extremely proud of what Calvin Abueva has become since returning to action in the recently-concluded bubble season, which was fittingly held in his hometown of Pampanga.
The amiable executive was beyond elated to see not just the 33-year-old’s improved play but also how much he has grown as an individual following the 16-month banishment he got slapped with due to his controversial actions.
Abueva, who got suspended for his obscene gestures towards Bobby Ray Parks’ girlfriend and his clothesline on Terrence Jones last year, was first allowed to join Phoenix in the bubble before being reinstated last Oct. 25.
“Tuwang-tuwa ako sa ginawa ni Calvin,” Marcial told the Philippine Sportswriters’ Association Forum webcast which is powered by SMART and presented by San Miguel Corp., Go For Gold, MILO, Amelie Hotel Manila, Braska Restaurant, and PAGCOR.
“Andun pa rin yung physicality pero hindi na nangaasar, hindi na umaano. At ‘pag may natutumbang player, kakampi niya o hindi, binubuhat niya. Lahat yun,” furthered the third-year league chief.
Marcial said that he and the league witnessed a more focused Abueva this time around, which translated greatly on the court.
Abueva, in his first game back last Oct. 27, played like he wasn’t out for 512 days as he finished with 21 points, 13 rebounds, and seven assists to help the Fuel Masters repel the NLEX Road Warriors, 114-110.
The 6-foot-2 forward, since then, became a major key in Phoenix’s Philippine Cup campaign. He was a reason why the young franchise was able to reach the all-local tilt’s semis for the second straight season.
The former Gilas Pilipinas stalwart finished second in the statistical race with 37.1 statistical points, making him a strong candidate for the Best Player of the Conference award — an award he last won in 2016.
“At kung makikita mo ‘pag nagco-concentrate talaga siya sa game, tingnan mo, magtitriple-double, nagtu-20 points and above, nagre-rebound, double digits sila. So ang laking bagay,” Marcial said.
It isn’t just Marcial who was left impressed with Abueva’s renaissance. His own team, Phoenix, too, so much so that they have reportedly locked him up for the next three years by giving him a max contract.
“Ang laking tuwa ko kay Calvin. Ang laki ng inimprove niya. Ang galing talaga ni Calvin eh.”