Calvin Abueva eyes more titles, while Matthew Wright puts trust in Phoenix plans

Even Calvin Abueva himself was stunned when he learned on Wednesday that Phoenix had already traded him away to the Magnolia Hotshots.

"It came out of nowhere," Abueva said in Filipino on the 2OT podcast Wednesday. "It still feels shocking. I didn't really know how to react. It was actually my friend who told me the news. My phone's battery was dead, so I wasn't able to see the news and the reactions."

In a surprising turn of events, Abueva finds himself bracing to meet new teammates and coaches after the Fuel Masters dealt him to Magnolia in exchange for Chris Banchero and the Hotshots' first (No. 6) and second round (No. 18) picks in the PBA Rookie Draft next month. Phoenix also attached its No. 10 pick in the deal.

The 33-year-old forward admitted he was taken aback by Phoenix's decision to trade him after standing by him for the duration of his league-imposed 18-month suspension.

"I don't have any ill feelings towards Phoenix. They guided me and stuck around throughout my suspension. They always took care of me," he said. "I was actually surprised -- where did all that support go? It felt like they just let go of me and gave up on me. But I know you're bound to get traded one way or another."

With Abueva on board, Phoenix pushed for its best campaign in franchise history. 'The Beast' looked more tethered, and as a result, his averages 15.4 points on 45.6 percent shooting, 11.3 rebounds, 5.2 rebounds and 1.7 steals in 35 minutes proved enough to earn him nominations for both the Best Player of the Conference and Samboy Lim Sportsmanship awards.

This is the second time Abueva has been traded. The first time was in 2018, when Alaska, the team that drafted the former Rookie of the Year with its second overall pick in 2012, sent him to Phoenix.

Abueva regrets leaving behind his teammates and head coach Topex Robinson, who served as his mentor ever since they first worked together in San Sebastian.

"We've bonded since college. Our partnership is different. We carried that over in Alaska, then we carried that over again in Phoenix. I'll miss him. But when we play against each other, I'm surely gonna tease him," he said. "My teammates, we were comrades inside the bubble. It felt like you were inside Boystown -- you couldn't go anywhere and you could only hang out with the boys inside the hotel and wherever. It pains me to leave Phoenix. But what's good is I'm put in a good position. That's why I'm happy."

The new Hotshot will be meeting Thursday with Magnolia head coach Chito Victolero and team manager Alvin Patrimonio. After that, the work begins with his former Gilas Pilipinas teammates Paul Lee and Marc Pingris, as well as Ian Sangalang, who with Abueva formed two-thirds of the famed Pinatubo Trio with the Stags in the NCAA.

"I'm going to give my best. I'm going to double whatever 'best' effort I gave in the past," said Abueva. "I'm just thinking about settling in with my new team and bonding with my new teammates and coaches. It feels like I'm a rookie again. There are guys more experienced than me here, and I have to put my head down and continue to learn."

Abueva is in prime position to contend for more titles with Magnolia. He's admittedly bent on adding more to the lone title under his belt, which he won with the Aces in the 2013 Commissioner's Cup.

"I'm super excited. I want to get more championships," Abueva remarked. "I feel like something good will come out of this. I've only won one. I want more."

Matthew Wright, Abueva's former Phoenix teammate, said he and the rest of the Fuel Masters were also taken by surprise when news of the trade broke out.

But Wright, like Abueva, is taking a more forward-looking approach.

"I can speak for everyone as to how surprised we were after finding out. However, we also trust management and the direction we are heading into," Wright said in a text message. "We all have developed relationships with Calvin within the three years [we were together], but we also understand the business aspect of pro ball."

"I'll personally miss him but I am excited to welcome Banchero, as well as whoever we pick at No. 6," he added.

Phoenix has a bevy of alluring targets with the sixth selection in the 46th season draft. ESPN5.com's mock draft initially had Phoenix drafting Jeremiah Gray with the 10th pick, but it will be interesting to see what direction the Fuel Masters will go now that they're drafting four spots higher.

But more importantly, Phoenix will give Wright a star partner in the backcourt. The 32-year-old Banchero had a down year relative to standards, but he was still nonetheless effective in Magnolia's loaded backcourt, averaging 10.8 points on 40.3 percent shooting, 3.5 assists and 2.9 rebounds in 26.4 minutes during the 2020 season.

Wright, a Best Player of the Conference runner-up who logged full-season career-highs of 21.1 points on 45 percent shooting, 5.5 assists and 1.2 steals, said he doesn't mind conceding possessions to Banchero if it translates to wins.

"We know Chris is a proven star, and I believe he and I can form a very dangerous backcourt tandem," said Wright.

"I don't care about usage, I care about winning. And if Chris can give me a break on some possessions on offense, I can preserve more energy for the fourth quarter of deep playoff runs," he added.