In the early goings of the 2022 Honda PBA Philippine Cup, Calvin Abueva has already had a few forget-me-not games.
With a double-double in each of his three games so far, Abueva has not been lacking in production and more so in effort, especially when it comes to trying to improve on the Magnolia Chicken Timplados Hotshots’ runner-up finish in last year’s edition of the Philippine Cup.
Wins seemed hard to come by at first, but it was only a matter of time before the Hotshots would clinch their first win in the 2022 Philippine Cup. It was thus no coincidence that Abueva’s best game so far for this conference and season came in Magnolia’s breakthrough win against the previously undefeated NorthPort Batang Pier.
In his first start this season, Abueva set the tone by going all 94 feet to score the game’s first basket, setting the tone for what was a grueling game between two squads with contrasting starts to the PBA season.
With the contest going down to the wire, Abueva took matters into his own hands as he scored the tying basket with 39 seconds remaining in the game and grabbed the rebound that eventually led to the game-winning 3-pointer by Rome Dela Rosa. It was all in a day’s work for the former San Sebastian Stag, who finished with 23 points and 12 rebounds, both of which were game-highs.
Playing for a loaded team like the Hotshots can get Abeuva lost in the mix of things and that’ stacked nature is typical for teams backed by the San Miguel Corporation (and the MVP Group). Teammates Paul Lee, Ian Sangalang, and Jio Jalalon can get hot anytime, but this season it has clearly been with the 34-year old at the helm. For his part, Abueva has taken on many roles over the past year with Magnolia, whether that be starting or coming off the bench. Beyond the positional needs, the two-time PBA Best Player of the Conference has done whatever was asked of him in terms of bringing the physicality, taking on a larger role in defense, or even when the Hotshots simply need a bucket.
Naturally, all that aggression Abueva brings to the court will lead to miscues and the 4.7 turnovers and the 4.3 fouls he has averaged through three games show that he may need to work on some areas, especially since expectations within Magnolia are another long postseason run. On the season, the Hotshots’ two losses have been by less than 10 points and close losses won’t be uncommon in the future. A lazy pass or a bad foul could change the complexion of the game and in a short conference, wins are more valuable than when compared to an 82-game NBA season.
The seven-time PBA All-Star is also no stranger to controversy, so any infraction he incurs or trouble he causes will make headlines and will be judged to a different standard (fairly or unfairly) compared to others.
Head coach Chito Victolero and the rest of the Magnolia coaching staff certainly do not want to subdue that kind of energy, especially since it finally led to a breakthrough win, but they would be wise to remind Abueva to channel that energy into more productive outlets like scoring points, grabbing rebounds, and creating plays for others.
Sure, Abueva was an MVP candidate last season, but he certainly got a headstart with his play a quarter into PBA Season 47. Averages of 16.0 points, 12.3 rebounds, 1.3 steals, an assist, and a block per game will certainly look different at conference and season’s end, but they already point to another strong finish for the reigning Best Player of the Conference for the Philippine Cup.
The uncertainties surrounding a new season that has just begun certainly brings excitement and Calvin Abueva has slowly separated himself from the pack with some teams having only played just one game so far in PBA Season 47. A lot can happen between now and the season’s end, but the Magnolia Chicken Timplados Hotshots are pleased with the early returns from their star player.