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    As Asi heads to retirement, NLEX looks to draft to fill frontline void

    Feb 28, 2021
    PHOTO: PBA Images

    ARE the curtains coming down on the career of veteran big man Asi Taulava?

    While the former PBA MVP, set to turn 48 on Tuesday, has kept himself in shape by joining the NLEX Road Warriors in their group workouts, teammate Kiefer Ravena apparently spilled the beans when he said Taulava is calling it a career and will join another Road Warrior in Cyrus Baguio in retirement.

    Ravena said the team needs a big in the coming draft where the Road Warriors own the Nos. 3 and 4 picks, respectively, especially with the 6-foot-9 Fil-Tongan about to retire.

    “Obviously ‘yung size talaga, that was really glaring during the (PBA) bubble, and that’s what we lack. And with the departure of Asi, big guy na naman ang nawala. Kailangan punuin yung spot na yun,” said the NLEX guard in his guest appearance in the Power&Play program of former PBA Commissioner Noli Eala on Saturday.

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      “Actually ang mga iniisip ko lang yung mga nawala, si Asi pati si Cyrus. Nag-retire na sila parehas, so if we could fill in a very athletic, long, and skillful wingman like Cyrus malaking bagay din yun.”

      NLEX management has kept mum about the status of Taulava with the team since talks of a possible retirement loomed in the Road Warriors’ last game in the Philippine Cup bubble against Terrafirma.

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      The 21-year veteran had 11 points, four rebounds, and three blocks in 14 minutes of play during the team’s 127-101 win over the Dyip.

      Coach Yeng Guiao later said that prior to the game, Taulava already told him it could be his final game in the league.

      But at the same time, the champion mentor said management will weigh things on the next career move of Taulava during the off-season.

      SPIN.ph sources said the two sides already talked to each other a few weeks ago, although Taulava still attends the Road Warriors’ group workout at the Epsilon Chi Center at the University of the Philippines campus in Diliman.

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      A team insider also said everything is being finalized with Guiao and any announcement will be made through the team’s social media accounts.

      There are talks that if ever Taulava retires, NLEX will make him its brand ambassador and will be doing cage clinics around the country once the pandemic is over.

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        Whatever the decision would be, Asi already had one heck of a PBA career.

        By playing in the bubble, he became the first player in the history of the league to suit up in four separate decades in a career spanning five teams that began in 1999 when he was tapped as the direct Fil-foreign hire of Talk ‘N Text.

        He bagged the MVP honor in 2003 when he won his first PBA title during the Philippine Cup of which he was adjudged Best Player of the Conference and Finals MVP.

        Taulava was a 17 time All-Star and twice MVP of the annual midseason spectacle. He also became member of the Mythical Team eight times, including four as member of the Mythical First Team.

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        He was a three-time All-Defensive Team member, was 2014 Comeback Player of the Year, member of both the 5,000-point and 2,000 offensive rebound clubs, and was named among the 40 PBA Greatest Players.

        Aside from TnT, Taulava also had stints with Coca-Cola, Meralco, Air21, and finally NLEX.

        During the time he briefly played outside of the PBA, Asi donned the San Miguel Beer jersey and won a championship in the ASEAN Basketball League (ABL), where he was also named MVP.

        He has career-averages of 13.7 points, 10.3 rebounds, and 2.0 assists in a total of 622 games.

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        PHOTO: PBA Images
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