No longer concerned with past, Abueva begins to reconstruct a career from the ashes
SMART CLARK GIGA CITY—Calvin Abueva knows he still has long way to go before he could be worthy of being called a reformed man.
He can’t even define the limits of this change he is undergoing.
“I never know when anger or something else would take over me, so I just tried to be really patient,” the 32-year-old forward told reporters late Monday night.
For the 31 minutes and 47 seconds he was on the floor, an outing preceded by 512 days of suspension, he kept reminding himself that: “I was telling myself that I needed to be patient, that I should not be too eager.”
His game betrayed his eagerness, though: 21 points, 13 rebounds and 7 assists in a 114-110 victory over NLEX in the PBA Philippine Cup at Angeles University Foundation. His personality? Not so. He paced himself emotionally. No outbursts, no excessive celebrations—certainly nothing to warrant a second look at the lifting of a suspension that was already the longest levied on a player.
His overall performance and behavior hold a lot of promise, one that Abueva refuses to utter.
“This is, after all, my first game with the team,” he said. “They already played in five. I didn’t even know what kind of role I was going to have entering this game.”
And he chalked up a great start to Act 2 of his career, one fueled, and at the same time held back, by an endless supply of enthusiasm that makes him vulnerable to a plethora of actions and reactions—not all of them good.
His moniker fits him perfectly: “The Beast;” only it used to be hard to expect what animal would step unto the hardcourt. At best, he is a bottomless well of motor and energy, capable of filling numbers across statistical departments. Monday’s near triple-double is an example. At worst? There’s the clothesline on former TNT import Terrence Jones. The lewd dance laced with sarcasm and defiance. The lurid exchange with a fan who happened to be the girlfriend of a fellow competitor.
On Monday, the change was palpable. And well received. For Abueva, it was a perfect place to reboot his career.
“I’m just really glad I was able to [play well],” he said.
“I wasn’t really out for the stats. I know that we have a scorer and I’m not one to take that away from him. What I really want now is to deliver the energy, to make the job easier for everyone here,” Abueva added.
The one-time champion and former Rookie of the Year winner is also busy acclimatizing himself to the restricted surroundings—an integral part of his comeback process.
“I’m still getting a feel for it,” he said. “Over here, you really need to be focused because everyone is. Actually, it’s not only [being] focused [one should work on]. Mental toughness, your body language—you have to work on it in here.”
Monday’s victory was the fourth for Phoenix in six games, putting the squad inside the Top 4, a circle that provides twice-to-beat protection in the first round of the playoffs. The Fuel Masters stayed half a game ahead of Alaska, which improved to 4-3 after a 99-96 victory over Terrafirma on Tuesday.
“When you’re in the middle of the pack like us, you have to step up, because we don’t want to be left out,” Alaska coach Jeffrey Cariaso said. “Also, the other teams in the bottom are now cramming [for wins]. We know they’re going to be hungry.”
Abueva has a hunger, too, one he hopes to satisfy on the court. He barely had anything to say about the episodes that plucked him out of the game.
He is less The Beast than he is the mythic creature his team is named after. Shedding all memories of his fall, this Phoenix is focused on rising from the ashes of his own making.
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