Phoenix coach Louie Alas said the presence of NBA veteran Alonzo Gee in practice the past few days kicked in the competitive side of the players as the Fuel Masters try to make things right in their sagging 2019 PBA Governors' Cup campaign.
Gee has had three practice sessions with the team already since arriving over the weekend. But Alas stressed that up to this point, Eugene Phelps remains the Fuel Masters' import.
"Honestly, every time you lose in an import conference, the most convenient way to make a change is through your import because for our locals, we can't just simply trade them or remove them since they all have contracts," Alas told ESPN5.
However, they are still weighing their options at this point, knowing that Phelps remains the hardworking import they all know.
In fact, the veteran PBA coach insists they hold no ill will towards Phelps, the same import who led Phoenix to a second place finish in the 2018 Governors' Cup elimination round, before eventually bowing to Meralco in the quarterfinals after blowing a twice-to-beat advantage.
The 29-year-old Phelps has been submitting impressive numbers of 28.43 points, 15.43 rebounds, 5.57 assists and 1.43 blocks in seven games.
But with the arrival of Gee, who played four seasons for the Cleveland Cavaliers in the NBA, and suspended forward Calvin Abueva in practice, the team has had more intensity in practice.
"I must admit, now, we have competition in practice because both imports can bang, plus we now have Calvin back in practice. And definitely, the presence of Calvin helps the team," stressed the 56-year-old Phoenix mentor.
Alas though sees a different style from Gee, the 32-year-old NBA veteran, who owns career averages of 6.6 points, 3.3 rebounds and 1.1 assists in 417 games.
But even before Gee arrived, Alas has been feverishly working on the team's defense, knowing that time is not on their side now.
Prior to Phoenix's weeklong break, the team suffered an 80-70 loss to NorthPort on Oct. 12.
"We sure need to get out of our mind first that Calvin is here because we don't even know when he'll get a chance to play," shared Alas. "But all I want to see is for my players to want it (win) more because some of our games are just like two-possession ballgames."
"We used to be no. 1 in rebounding, but now, we're just no. 4. And we used to be no. 1 in points off turnovers, but also now, we're just no. 4," recalled Alas.
"So those things, those numbers, we really have to improve, but then again, if ever we decide to change import, we're still not sure if those numbers will change quick," he added.
Alas said the team intends to make a final decision on whether to activate Gee in place of Phelps by Wednesday.
Phoenix, currently in 10th spot in the standings with its 2-5 card, returns to action on Friday when it faces Columbian Dyip at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.