The Phoenix Super LPG Fuel Masters are 2-0 inside the bubble in Angeles, Pampanga, and they can credit that to an unselfish attitude across the board, including the coaching staff.
In their 110-105 victory against the NorthPort Batang Pier, interim head coach Topex Robinson was able to take the team's unselfish mentality to the next level, letting his assistant - and former nemesis - Jamike Jarin draw up plays during timeouts.
"He was my worst enemy and I hated that guy, but his strength is my weakness. I don't know everything and I don't have to pretend that I know everything. So if you have that kind of trust on your coaching staff, that should be the norm for everyone. If they see their head coach giving the opportunity to the assistant coaches, it has to start from the top and that's what we're doing right now," said Robinson.
Jarin was Robinson's adversary in the NCAA, where the latter's Lyceum Pirates often faced the former's San Beda Red Lions.
On the court, the team was able to rack up 27 assists, which led to several timely baskets. Phoenix was able to fire on all cylinders anew as they nailed 17 triples. More importantly, they only had nine unassisted field goals.
"We're just trying to sharpen things when the opportunity comes to us. Just like what we reminded them during the start of the fourth, these are the games that we should be playing. This will make us good, make us better. [Matthew Wright] said we should be playing these kinds of games because this is the best opportunity for us to learn. That's just a classic example of grinding it out and valuing every possession that's been given to us," recalled Robinson.
Although Wright, the team's leading scorer, was able to put up 23 points on an inefficient 38.5% shooting display, he was able to dish out a career-high nine assists.
With Wright giving way to his teammates, teammate Jason Perkins was able to replicate his career-high 31 points built on a scintillating 12/18 shooting clip.
Even stretch big Justin Chua benefitted from Wright's pinpoint passes, drilling two shots from the outside to help the Fuel Masters maintain control of the game. He managed to put up 17 points before fouling out with 1:55 left in the game.
"I just talked to him [after the third] and he said, 'I don't want to lose it for you, coach.' I told him, 'This is you. Whether you're missing those shots or not, I'm not gonna take you out.' And that's how much I trust Justin. He could shoot those threes because he's been practicing on those threes. He just wanted to win it for the team," said Robinson.
Although they remain perfect, the team patiently awaits the return of Calvin Abueva, who is still waiting for reinstatement from the PBA.
"Calvin is not an excuse for us not to compete. Obviously it's nice for us to have a Calvin Abueva on your team, but this is not just about Calvin. It's not about Matt. It's about everybody. I just love seeing Dave Marcelo hitting that three, JR Reyes hitting shots, Jansen Rios solid in the last end and that's what we celebrate. One guy is just a piece of a whole," told Robinson.