By Drei Christopher Villanueva
At 43, Asi Taulava is the oldest player in the PBA and in fact, was the oldest player since the Living Legend Robert Jaworski in 1988 to crack the Mythical Team last season. When it was announced that NLEX had granted The Rock a two-year extension, it meant that fans could look forward to seeing him in action for at least that much longer. Indeed, until a heel injury and a serious migraine sidelined him over the last few games, “The Rock” was showing no signs of slowing down.
“He was so frustrated because before the start of the season he got injured – first the toe, then the heel,” NLEX head coach Yeng Guiao said. “Then lately, he had a migraine. It was a serious attack because Asi had to be brought to the hospital.”
With Taulava unable to play, the Road Warriors had lost their last five games and fell into a tie for last place with the lowly Mahindra Floodbuster at 1-5 win-loss mark. It wasn’t surprising, then, that the veteran center’s frustration spilled over, fueling speculations that he’ll be traded to another team. Taulava didn’t deny reports that he wanted to be traded, but after talks with head coach Yeng Guiao and team manager Ronald Dulatre, the former Most Valuable Player said he had made up his mind and decided to stay on for good.
“Aside from these misfortunes he had experienced, our team wasn’t winning as well. He wasn’t complaining about the playing time, but because the team wasn’t doing good. Had we been playing well, I don’t think there would be a problem with Asi.”
Taulava once played for Guiao with the Powerade Pilipinas squad during the 2009 FIBA Asia Championship. The veteran center is coming from one of his better seasons last season and expectations were high for him and the rest of the Road Warriors this season.
But under Guiao, Taulava’s minutes dwindled down.
Guiao explained that he wanted to manage the minutes of Taulava and try to make him a part of the team’s system, but not the main focus of it: “Before, yung opensa kasi sa kanya naka-sentro. It’s different with my system because I give everyone equal opportunities. Yung mga talents which were untapped before, we’re giving them a chance.”
“It has always been my philosophy. Kahit yung mga star players ko before, if they’re not playing well, they will only play limited minutes, but if you’re an average player, but you’re playing well, you will play more minutes. There’s no guarantee you will play long minutes in my team.”
But Guiao has shown a willingness to adjust to fit Taulava into the NLEX style of play.
“Asi agreed to play within our system and he has embraced his new role. I promised Asi that we will be willing to bend backwards and accommodate him within our system. Before, he was the focal point of the team’s offense. Now, it’s different. Our system gives everyone equal opportunities, and Asi will have to learn to play within our system.”
Image source: PBA Inquirer