MANILA, Philippines—Matthew Wright was in no mood to unpack how exactly Phoenix Super LPG botched its PBA Governors’ Cup.
But he was game enough to provide a gist of how he thinks the Fuel Masters got this awfully bad.
“To sum up, we had a very traumatic season in terms of losing personnel. We lost Calvin (Abueva), we lost Vic (Manuel), we lost (Chris Banchero), we lost Justin (Chua). That’s an all-star team right there that we lost. Just vanished,” he told reporters after 127-88 beatdown at the hands of top-seeded and twice-to-beat Magnolia on Friday.
It could be recalled that Phoenix made the Philippine Cup semifinals during the 2020 bubble tournament in Pampanga province. The Fuel Masters were overwhelming underdogs during that series but managed to push a souped-up TNT side to the limit.
That Phoenix team featured Abuvea, who was eventually sent to Magnolia during the offseason. The Fuel Masters received Banchero in that swap and then got Manuel from Alaska later on. The wide-bodied forward was eventually shipped to powerhouse San Miguel before the Governors’ Cup, with the Filipino-Italian playmaker moving on to join Meralco shortly after an expired contract. Chua was then sent to NLEX at a time when the club was in the thick of a playoff race.
Wright admitted that the personnel changes took a toll on his psyche.
“Every day we came into practice, one of them was gone. It’s crazy, man, and it’s really frustrating because I’ve been with Phoenix for six years, when we were nothing, when we were so bad. We kept building, building, building, and we got to a point where I thought we’re gonna be the next team that comes up and we just traded everybody,” he said.
“It’s very hard to stay focused and to be motivated. It’s taxing especially on me and Perk, taxing everyday to keep these guys afloat and just hope that somebody comes and steps up,” he went on.
The Phoenix gunner knows that he will have to revisit all that when he and the team management sits down to tackle his future, with his contract expiring by season’s end.
Wright said he has gotten feelers from other teams, and even from leagues from other countries, but begged off from providing any more details as he is focused on being a true professional for Phoenix.
“If I focused on that then I wouldn’t care about any of these games that I’m playing right because ‘I’m going to here anyway, to this country anyway, to play for this team.’ I don’t think it’s good mentality to have. I try not to think about it as much,” he said.
The Filipino-Canadian said he was open to “any options,” but doubled down on the thought of staying put: “I’d love to stay in the Philippines. My family’s here, my son’s born at St. Luke’s, I got a farm in Quezon. My whole life’s here. I’ve been here for over six years and it’s not easy to just get out and leave. Nobody really wants to do that.”
Adding to—and perhaps even complicating—that long list of reasons to stay home is a looming tour of duty with Chot Reyes and the National Five.
“If the opportunity arises, the price is right, you gotta reconsider sometimes. But, I love the PBA. I love Gilas. And those two things are very hard to separate,” said Wright.
Wright said that much of his focus now is on helping the national cage program reassert its might in the region.
“We have to sustain our dominance. We’re the team USA of the SEA Games … You can’t give (opponents) anything—any confidence. Even if they lose by 15 points, to them that’s like a moral victory, right? We’ve got to destroy these teams,” he said.
“But that’s hard to do because every team’s getting better but that’s a challenge we have to accept,” he added.
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