by Jonas Terrado
Games Today (Smart Araneta Coliseum)
4:30 p.m. – Meralco vs Phoenix Pulse
7 p.m. – Rain or Shine vs Ginebra
Phoenix Pulse tries to focus on improving its chances in the PBA Commissioner’s Cup without star cager Calvin Abueva and coach Louie Alas when it battles Meralco at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
The Fuel Masters take on the Bolts at 4:30 p.m. with Abueva out after being handed an indefinite suspension and a total fine of P70,000 by the PBA Commissioner’s Office for his controversial actions in the team’s last two games.
As part of his punishment, Abueva is barred from even watching the games as a spectator.
Phoenix also ought to improve its company’s image after Abueva’s foolishness went viral.
Also out is Alas, who will serve the first of his two-game ban for shoving TNT KaTropa’s David Semerad during an altercation and criticizing league officials after Sunday’s 114-88 loss at the Ynares Center in Antipolo City.
Their absence co-incides with the arrival of former TNT import Richard Howell, who will fill-in for the injured Rob Dozier.
Howell last played in 2014 when he almost led TNT to the Commissioner’s Cup crown but lost to San Mig Super Coffee (now Magnolia) in the finals.
Matthew Wright and Jason Perkins are expected to fill the void left by Abueva, whose energy will be sorely missed by the Fuel Masters.
Lead assistant Topex Robinson is expected to call the shots in Alas’ absence. Other members of the coaching staff are Jon Jacinto, Kris Reyes and Mel Alas.
A big challenge for Phoenix is the expected debut of Raymond Almazan with Meralco.
Almazan, who was acquired from Rain or Shine in a trade last May 14, missed the first four games due to an ankle injury.
Meanwhile, defending champion Barangay Ginebra San Miguel looks to become the second team in league history to win 1,000 games in its 7:30 p.m. clash with Rain or Shine.
A victory will put the Kings alongside the San Miguel Beermen as the only team to reach the mark, per league’s chief statistician Fidel Mangonon.
Ginebra is also going for its third win in four outings this conference and tie idle TNT.