The Phoenix Super LPG Fuel Masters are still waiting for Calvin Abueva's PBA reinstatement, but the focus remains competing at the highest level even without its star forward in the fold to start the 2020 season.
Head coach Topex Robinson said there is still no definite date for the return of Abueva, who wasn't on the bench during the Fuel Masters' impressive Philippine Cup opener win against Meralco on Monday.
Abueva was instead seen as a participant in the virtual fan seats alongside teammate Alex Mallari, who is also sidelined with an injury according to Robinson.
"We're excited that we have Calvin here. We don't know when he's gonna be playing," he said. "Calvin knows that he's a piece of this team, but he's not the whole of this team. We would love to have him, but it's also not an excuse for us not to compete without Calvin. And we are doing this for Calvin."
Per One Sports' Selina Dagdag-Alas, Abueva is set to finish on Wednesday the required seminars by the Games and Amusements Board (GAB) on the Code of Conduct of a Professional Player and gender sensitivity issues.
In the meantime, Abueva has also been a willing participant in Phoenix practices and even took over during certain stretches to coach, according to Robinson.
"He's really been the best practice player of our team. He's also one of our coaches right now. I'd never seen him coach a team like that, and I told him, 'Don't make me lose my job. You're a player first, I'm a coach first,'" he joked.
Having the 32-year-old forward will certainly be a shot in the arm for Phoenix, and Robinson says the team is "excited when the time comes when he's gonna be with us."
"He's a blessing to us. He's in a happy place. He loves to be with us. He loves to be with his team," said Robinson.
Even after a terrific first game without Abueva, Robinson said the Fuel Masters still have some wrinkles to iron out in their play. Phoenix will shoot for its second win of the year when it faces NorthPort on Oct. 15, Thursday.
"We have the 24-hour rule. As much as this game is big for us, it's done and over with," said Robinson. "NorthPort is a strong team, but we don't know what they're gonna do. What we're sure of is what we're gonna do. So we're focused on how we're gonna get better. There's a lot of flaws in our game and we know we can get better.
"We're not gonna fall in love just because we won and we're gonna relax. There's so many things to grow from and learn from, and that's what we're focusing on."
"Winning game one doesn't make us bubble champions," Robinson continued. "Winning our first game means that if we're gonna do it right the way we prepared it to be, we're gonna give ourselves a chance to win. It doesn't really define who we are right now, but that just shows the promise that we have if we're gonna stick to our guns."