After 16 months of suspension, Phoenix finally have their ‘Beast’ back as Calvin Abueva made his return to the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) floor last night.

The 32-year-old forward from Pampanga played his first official game in the 2020 Philippine Cup last night, where he led the Fuel Masters to a huge win over NLEX, 114-110.

Abueva, despite not being in a PBA game since June 2019, during the 2019 Commissioner’s Cup, didn’t look like he had any rust in his game as he almost had a triple-double with 21 points, 13 rebounds and seven assists.

120,000 fans watched Abueva’s return on the Facebook live stream of the top basketball league in the country, a sight that Abueva was not expecting.

“Hindi ko in-expect na ganun. Pinakita nila sa’kin at naramdaman ko yung suporta nila. Maski saan, maski kanino pag tinanong, yung suporta nila nasa akin. Yung mga yun, hindi ko binalewala at pinagsikapan ko hanggang makabalik ako dito,” he said during the post-game interview.

During the 2019 Governors Cup, Phoenix struggled and only won three games and lost eight. The biggest reason behind it is not having that energizer and hustle player like Abueva in the roster.

However, now that the second overall pick of the 2012 PBA draft is back and all the emotional feels have faded, the big question now stands; are we all going to see the rise of Phoenix in this very open 45th season of the PBA?

The last time that we saw Abueva wearing the Phoenix uniform during the Philippine Cup conference was back in 2019.

In that conference, the duo of Matthew Wright and Abueva led the Fuel Masters to the number one seed with a 9-2 record. That squad started the season with five game win-steak, even beating the eventual champions San Miguel in a tightly contested game.

Phoenix took down Alaska in the quarterfinals before losing to the championship veterans Beermen in the Semifinals, 1-4, but all throughout the series, it didn’t look like Phoenix had zero chance.

During that conference, Abueva averaged a double-double with 15.2 points, 11.3 rebounds with 2.8 assists per game.

This year, Phoenix have been performing at a high level, currently sitting as the fourth seed in the standings with a 4-2 record. They are the third best rebounding team in the league with 14.4 rebounds a game, tied with Meralco.

Wright has been killing it as well, averaging 25.5 points with 5.1 rebounds and 5.3 assists while shooting 46% at the field and 36% from the three-point area. Jason Perkins has been the second best player in the team during the absence of The Beast, averaging 18.5 points, 10.5 rebounds and 2.5 assists.

Interim head coach Topex Robinson has been stellar as well while coaching his first team in the PBA. He even beat his mentor Yeng Guiao last night and giving the great Tim Cone and the Barangay Ginebra a good fight.

The return of Abueva, plus the wide open nature of the Philippine Cup so far, means we might just witness the rise of a Phoenix team that could topple everyone en-route to their first championship in the PBA.

What do you guys think? Is Calvin Abueva the missing piece for Phoenix? With his return, are they a champiobship contender? Sound off below on the comment section!