The TNT KaTropa were caught by surprise when forward Kelly Williams announced his retirement from the PBA after 14 seasons.
Head coach Bong Ravena told ESPN5.com that Williams, whose contract was extended by the team until Dec. 31, did not inform the team of his decision and that the management just learned of the announcement on social media.
"Shocked, and we respect his decision [to retire]," said Ravena, whose team is still in the training bubble of the team in the INSPIRE Sports Academy in Laguna.
Williams was with the team when they went to Laguna for practice, but left the bubble without giving the management any official reason, according to a report by The Manila Times which was confirmed by team manager Gabby Cui.
"Kelly Williams left our training camp on September 2 without any notice or explanation until now. He has not reached out to us ever since. We learned about his decision to retire via social media only. He is AWOL (absent without leave)," Cui told ESPN5.com.
Cui also released a statement, saying the franchise is grateful for Williams' services.
"We would like to thank Kelly Williams for everything he has done for TNT KaTropa. We wish him all the best in his future endeavors," Cui said.
Ravena said Williams' retirement dealt a huge blow to TNT's depth: "Big [loss]. Kulang na kami sa malaki."
Former TNT coach Chot Reyes said Williams' exit will leave a void of versatility and leadership, while adding that he was also not surprised since he knew the forward was mulling retirement over the past few years. Reyes, one of the guys Williams thanked in his retirement post, said bringing the high-flyer to the Philippines at the time was a no-brainer.
"It was easy. His athleticism and talent were very obvious even back then. I could already see what he would bring to the national program," Reyes said. "Instrumental and inspirational. His athleticism still made him a potent offensive weapon, but his ability to defend different positions allowed us to be a tough defensive team."
"Internationally, we've made him guard the other team's best scorer, regardless of position. He was also great at full court pressure, and he could switch to guards on pick and rolls. Inspirational, because when you see him, with all his health problems and medication, he was still going hard at it, you have no excuse to slack off," Reyes added.
In an interview with the Ultimate Fan Hub Podcast on Tuesday, Williams, who is dealing with health issues, said that the pandemic did not influence his decision to step away from basketball.
"People who are close to me know that I had been up and down on retiring and playing. It's been that kind of way for the last few years to me," explained Williams, who has career averages of 10.4 points, on 40% shooting, 7.5 rebounds, and 1.3 assists.
"There's going to be a lot of details that I won't be getting into. Will definitely be in the next book but I could say that I feel that I could play for four or five years strong, but sometimes, some things are out of your control. There's a lot of intricacies within the business that you just got to deal with... I'll talk about it in my next book, but it was more of a business plus life realization that this decision was made for me."
Moreover, the current situation also provides him a perfect situation to be with his children, who have been residing in the United States over the past four years.
"I think for me, being for my kids and wanting to physically be there and be safe was always in my mind. I'm just as affected as the rest of the world."