Fuel Masters not too hot on Manuel

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    PHOENIX wants to pick up on the gains it made in the last PBA Philippine Cup, which explains why coach Topex Robinson is lukewarm about the prospects of acquiring Vic Manuel in a trade with Alaska.

    Robinson yesterday told Malaya-Business Insight he wants to keep the core of the Fuel Masters intact as much possible, a plan that could be derailed if the Aces ask for at least one of his key players in exchange for their disgruntled forward.

    “It’s flattering for us, siyempre kino-consider niya kami,” said Robinson, whose team has been included in Manuel’s list for preferred destinations along with San Miguel Beer and NLEX if ever the latter gets out of Alaska.

    “I mean, who doesn’t want Vic?” added Robinson. “Ang question lang obviously there is, sino ang hihingin din ng Alaska? Siyempre, di naman p’wedeng wala siyang kapalit. Apple-to-apple. In order for them to give Vic to us, siyempre, kumbaga apple din hihingin nila.

    “For us, pretty much we’re happy with what we have. I love Vic and what he could do. (But) at this point wala kaming immediate (plan) na palitan ‘yung core namin. ‘Yung first priority namin is to keep our core.”

    According to Robinson, that explains why Phoenix management worked quickly to sign Calvin Abueva and RR Garcia to new deals after their contracts, along with those of six other Fuel Masters, expired last month.

    Also ready to be finalized is a new contract for Justin Chua, assuring their stay in the team they powered to a first semifinals stint in the last PBA bubble in Clark, Pampanga.

    “So having Jason (Perkins), Matt (Wright), Justin, Calvin and whoever pang makukuha namin… at least yung core namin is intact,” said Robinson.

    “Sabi ko nga, gustong-gusto ko si Vic, pero hindi rin naman ganu’n kadali ma-acquire iyun. Kumbaga, ‘yung mga ganu’n (trade) kailangan i-even out,” added Robinson. “At this point wala kaming p’wedeng ibigay sa kanila para makuha namin si Vic.”

    For sure, trading away one of his key players would go against the grain of Robinson’s plans for the coming season that is set to kick off in April.

    “’Yung coaching staff keeps finding ways to develop ‘yung mga weakness ng mga players namin. Kami sa Phoenix the only way we’re gonna get better is to develop our players,” said Robinson.

    “Ang option lang namin talaga is just to develop our players to that level na pasok dun sa identity namin as a team. ‘Yun ang focus namin ngayon, how we’re gonna develop our players right now, especially the guys who have live contracts sa amin.”

    With that said, Robinson admitted his sights are trained on the coming rookie draft and the free agency market to fill up the missing pieces for his team.

    Phoenix owns the rights to the 10th pick overall as well as the No. 4 pick (16th overall) in the second round.

    It is on the Fuel Masters’ first round pick Robinson is more concerned with. “At No. 10 kasi we don’t have control kung sino. At that point kasi best available talent lang p’wede naming kunin,” he said.

    Free agency is another source Robinson is looking at. “There are pieces there that we could pick from free agency,” he stated.

    “Right now we’re still looking at the free agency market, kasi nga madami nag-expire. Kaya at this point iyun ang mga tinitingnan namin. Kung sino p’wede,” added Robinson.