New Beast: Abueva fills the stat sheet in his return

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Whatever happened to Calvin Abueva during his self-forced exile from PBA games for more than a year, he is a “reformed” beast upon setting foot on the hardcourt again by giving the Phoenix Super LPG Fuel Masters significant numbers during their historic run in the PBA bubble.

Although his production is a smaller sample size than those from the usual three-conference season and is made in a tournament that does not require imports, the 32-year old Abueva put up stats in the 2020 PBA Philippine Cup that were the highest in his career.

He scored 15.42 points per game, the highest since the 2015-16 and 2016-17 seasons where he registered 15.38 each time for Alaska.

He grabbed 11.33 rebounds a game, the second highest next only to the 2018-19 season when he recorded 11.68 for Phoenix, his current team.

He dished off 5.17 assists, first time he dished over 4 assists a game during his career. His previous high was 3.32, made during the 2018-19 season also with Phoenix.

He stole 1.67 times a game, the highest since he tallied 1.27 swipes during 2016-17 season when he was with Alaska.

He shot 45.6% from the floor, his most efficient since he knocked 44.7% of his shots during the 2013-14 season when he was with Alaska.

Finally, his 71.2% success from the freethrow line this season is the only year he connected over 70% of his freethrow attempts during a season in his entire career.

The seemingly meeker and more focused “Beast” got off with a strong start during his campaign. The PBA reinstated him in time for a game against the NLEX Road Warriors where he almost notched a triple double. Abueva posted 21 points, 13 rebounds, and seven assists to lead Phoenix to a 114-110 victory.

The 32-year old native of Angeles, Pampanga went on to record a triple-double two games after by putting up 10 points, 12 rebounds, and 12 assists in the Fuel Masters’ 116-94 victory over Terrafirma. This was the team’s fifth win in eight outings.

Along with Matthew Wright, Abueva would push Phoenix to eventually finish the eliminations with an 8-3 win-loss card, tied with Barangay Ginebra for the best record and send home seventh seed Magnolia in just one game in the quarterfinals as they hold a twice-to-beat advantage.

Abueva again led Phoenix to a 2-1 lead over TNT in their best-of-five semifinals while missing the services of Wright most of the time due to an ankle injury. Unfortunately, they could not close out their first ever semis appearance during four-year existence in the PBA despite Wright’s return to full duty.

The Fuel Masters could not overcome the Tropang Giga’s deeper, fresher, and more experienced lineup in yielding the deciding fourth and fifth game.

Unsurprisingly, these performances propelled Abueva to earn an award, along with a potential one, which will be added to his prestigious 2012 Rookie of the Year jewel.

Abueva was named the Press Corps Player of the Week for the period from Nov. 16-22, a period covering the first three games of their semifinals.

He tallied double-double performances in putting Phoenix just a win away from their first ever PBA Finals appearance.

Abueva was limited to a respectable 13-point, 9-rebound output in Game 1 as he had to ride the bench a lot due to being hounded by early foul trouble, resulting to the Fuel Masters dropping a close 92-95 contest.

He came back with a vengeance in the next two games to win the citation.

Phoenix took Game 2, 110-103, where “The Beast” delivered 20 points, 15 rebounds, 4 assists and 2 steals; and followed it up with a 92-89 Game 3 win with “The Beast” leading the charge with 24 markers, 14 boards, six dimes, and 4 swipes.

Abueva was also efficient from the floor by knocking in 55% of his shots, including an impressive 63% shooting from three-point range.

Another year-end award could be in store for him if the PBA decides to hand out the usual mythical team selection.

Despite missing Phoenix’s first five games due to his suspension, resulting to playing in just 12 of 17 games during the entire conference, Abueva still managed to accumulate 37.1 statistical points for the Best Player of the Conference award. That is good for second place, only behind Ray Parks, who emerged at the top with 38.3 sps through the semifinals, and ahead of third placer CJ Perez of Terrafirma.

Wright led the race earlier but his injury dropped him 4th. Northport’s Christina Standhardinger, TNT’s RR Pogoy, Stanley Pringle of Ginebra, Jason Perkins of Phoenix, and Scottie Thompson of Ginebra round out the Top 10.

While Pheonix’s inability to advance to the finals probably excludes Abueva for the Best Player of the Conference award, a spot in the mythical selection will be a probability, if there will be such award during this unconventional one-conference season.

By Armando M. Bolislis