Sta. Lucia coach Boyet Fernandez entered the press room as a protocol for winning coaches facing sports writers after the game.
He has won the match, his team’s third in its last four games, but came up with an opening statement as if he has lost a big one.
"I can’t imagine my team without my (most valuable player)," said Fernandez.
Yes, indeed, Fernandez lost his prized-player, 2007-2008 MVP Kelly Williams, after the Realtors shipped the versatile forward to Talk 'N Text, ending weeks of trade rumors.
As if that was not enough, the Realtors also lost their former rookie of the year, Ryan Reyes also to the Tropang Texters, completing a nine-player, three-team trade deal considered as the biggest this season.
But Williams and Reyes were two of the only players with greater value, so to speak in a trade that also involved Barako Coffee. The two cagers who played for the PBA-backed national team to the FIBA Asia Championship in separate occasions, will go to the Tropang Texters as a diverting route to the Smart-Gilas Pilipinas developmental squad.
The two players are reportedly set to be loaned to Smart-Gilas, which is also being supported by Manny V. Pangilinan, who also owns the Texters' ballclub in the PBA.
Also involved in the multi-player trade were Ali Peek, Nic Belasco, Pong Escobal, Ogie Menor, Yousif Aljamal, Mark Isip and a future rookie draft pick.
The Realtors were able to secure the rights on Peek, Belasco, Escobal, Menor and Aljamal.
The Energy Coffee Masters tabbed Isip and a future pick.
Sta. Lucia team manager and former PBA chairman Buddy Encarnado told GMANews.TV that it's really hard to let go of two of the Realtors' best players.
"Things are really done for a reason and one of them is because of a higher calling and that is to represent the national team," said Encarnado.
Sta. Lucia’s last hurrah?
But is this the sign that we have seen the last of Sta. Lucia in the PBA?
Encarnado neither confirmed nor deny that the Fiesta Cup would be the last conference in the PBA for the Realtors, who won two titles in nearly two decades of participation in the country’s premier cage league.
"We can't really tell it," said Encarnado when asked if this will be the final conference of the Realtors. "It’s like asking somebody if he still wants to stay alive or wants to die."
"But you cannot question anymore Sta. Lucia's tenure in the PBA. We have stayed longer than some of the teams that participated here. Right now, we'll still continue to show the same passion and willingness to compete," added Encarnado.
Source: JVP/Rey Joble, GMANews.TV