Asi Taulava makes his PBA return today against the team he first suited up for as he tries to revive Air21’s flickering hopes of making the Governors’ Cup playoffs at Philsports Arena in Pasig.
The 6-foot-9 Taulava plays his first competitive game in over three months when the Express clash with Talk ‘N Text in the 5:15 p.m. game that also marks the league’s return to its old home for the first time in seven years.
Early Top Four qualifier Petron Blaze, the winner of its last six games, battles a struggling Alaska five at 7:30 p.m. with Boosters’ coach Gee Abanilla expected to try out new combinations to keep his aces fresh for the playoffs.
With a 6-1 card after a 122-88 ripping of the Tropang Texters on Wednesday, Petron is assured of a twice-to-beat privilege in the quarterfinals.
Taulava last played for the Asian Basketball League (ABL) champion San Miguel Beer and found his way to the Air21 roster after Meralco, Asi’s previous team, traded its rights to the Express in exchange for Mike Cortez.
The Express also acquired Joseph Yeo from Petron in exchange for Mark Isip in a deal that was approved yesterday morning.
“It’s a must-win for us,” said coach Franz Pumaren of Air21, which lost its last four games and, at 1-5, is in danger of being the first team to be booted out. “All we need to do is mind our own business and start winning.”
“We got the players we need (Taulava and Yeo), but the disadvantage is we only have limited time to prepare. Asi has not played for three months. He’s been training and he’s in shape, but an actual game is totally different.”
The Texters, on the other hand, are just a rung better than the Express at 2-4 and coach Norman Black is under pressure to make Talk ‘N Text competitive again.
“Simply put, we just have to find a way to get a win,” said Black, who will still play import Tony Mitchell today pending the arrival of a replacement.
Obviously disappointed with the effort of his highly touted import, Black used Mitchell for just 21 minutes in that game against Petron Wednesday night.