Matthew Wright was frank and direct to the point.
The Phoenix gunslinger said the absence of coach Louie Alas and forward Calvin Abueva hurt the Fuel Masters' campaign in the eliminations of the PBA Commissioner's Cup.
In Wright's words, the Fuel Masters look up to Alas as the "source of a lot of our inner toughness and will."
As for Abueva, his high-octane energy provides the spark for the team when the going gets tough.
Apparently, their absence left a big hole -- so big the Fuel Masters couldn't fill it.
Alas has been suspended for two games while Abueva is serving an indefinite suspension for their involvement in a scuffle that marred the Phoenix-TNT game last June 2.
As a result, Phoenix picked up back-to-back defeats against Meralco and Rain or Shine and dropped to 1-3 (win-lost) record.
"I feel like we're just losing a little bit of our edge," Wright told reporters after Phoenix blew a seven-point lead in the fourth quarter and eventually lost, 89-82, to Rain or Shine last Sunday at the Ynares Center in Antipolo City.
"Phoenix has been playing with edge the last couple of conferences that you guys have been familiar with. I just felt that we're just getting a little bit soft and there are teams that are just taking advantage of that."
The good news is Alas will be back to the sideline on Saturday when the Fuel Masters play the streaking Alaska Aces.
"We don't know how long Calvin's gonna be gone but we just have to take what he brings. Guys have to step up and just try to be as Calvin as possible if that makes any sense," Wright said.
"We just have to find ourselves living through a rough patch. We've been on the wrong side of the media the last couple of weeks and we felt it's seeping into our mentality.
We have to address that immediately before this conference comes out as sayang," he added. (JT)