ANTIPOLO — Phoenix has had a busy season after being involved in several trade deals.
The Fuel Masters, however, aren’t done yet in revamping their roster especially after a failed campaign in the 2017 Governors’ Cup.
“Obviously, [we have] a need for additional big man in the draft. We don’t need just one, we need two more big men. Doug (Kramer) played well today, but we don’t have any more big man yet to complement, especially in the all-Filipino,” said Phoenix head coach Ariel Vanguardia after a loss to Rain or Shine on Wednesday eliminated the Fuel Masters from playoff contention.
“Our bigs like Willie Wilson, Eriobu are small bigs. We’re looking at the draft and of course, we are open to trades. We always discuss with management whatever comes our way that’s how we rebuild.”
The Fuel Masters made several moves this season. They traded second-year playmaker Simon Enciso to Alaska for veteran guard RJ Jazul, before acquiring former national team mainstay Jeff Chan from Rain or Shine, who got Mark Borboran and a future second round pick in return.
Phoenix have also unloaded flashy guard Cyrus Baguio and got Dylan Ababou and NLEX’s 2020 second round pick.
The team also took part in a three-team deal that sent TNT’s Ranidel de Ocampo to Meralco on Monday where the Fuel Masters let go of rookie Norbert Torres and ended up with the Bolts’ first round pick in this year’s draft and the KaTropa’s second round pick in 2019.
Phoenix had a promising start this conference, winning its first two games. But the Fuel Masters’ campaign took a turn for the worse after their explosive import Eugene Phelps suffered a foot injury last month and star swingman Matthew Wright missed five games due to national team commitments.
“Honestly, we didn’t know that Eugene’s injury was a stress fracture on his left foot. He was playing with pain and he wasn’t the same,” Vanguardia recalled. “We had to make a change, and Brandon (Brown) wasn’t in shape yet. We lost that long preparation we had before the conference.”
“We also didn’t get lucky with the schedule. Our national team player missed the most out of our games. He missed five games this conference. It was tough because we saw how he can deliver when he’s with us for long stretches,” Vanguardia said of Wright.
Wright unleashed 36 points while Brandon Brown added 33 points and 20 rebounds, but despite their big production, Phoenix still went on to drop its eighth straight game.
“It’s really painful, disappointing conference for us. It’s more painful knowing it’s our first time to miss the quarterfinals. A lot more sleepless nights especially that we’re going to have to wait until December for the all-Filipino before we can play again.”