ASI Taulava's wish to return to the PBA has been granted.
Meralco has agreed to trade the rights to the 6-9 Taulava to Air21 Express for former top rookie pick Mike Cortez in a deal that could trigger an avalanche of trade deals in the final stretch of the league's 38th season.
The papers for the trade have been forwarded to the PBA Commissioner's Office for approval on Friday.
The trade allows the Express to finally get their hands on the playing rights of Taulava, the former league MVP, who has long been on the inactive list of Meralco after the two parties failed to agree on a new contract prior to the season.
However, the Cortez-Taulava trade is expected to create gaping holes in the rosters of both teams, which the Bolts and Express are set to address immediately through another wave of transactions.
Sources told Spin.ph Air 21 is also set to acquire Mark Borboran from the Bolts in exchange for James Sena.
The latest deal could also set off separate trade transactions involving sister teams Petron and Barangay Ginebra and players like Joseph Yeo, Kerby Raymundo, and Nerbert Omolon.
(For full story, see Air21, Petron, Ginebra agree in principle on tweaked trade for Yeo, Raymundo)
Although already 40, Taulava managed to resuscitate his career through the Asean Basketball League (ABL) where he suited up for San Miguel and steered the Beermen to their first championship last June. Subsequently, the Fil-Tongan was adjudged MVP of the fledgling regional league.
The many-time national team member is expected to beef up Air21’s frontline that has been one of its weak points as the team continues its skid in the ongoing Governors Cup.
The arrival of Cortez, meanwhile, is expected to stabilize the backcourt and ball rotation of Meralco.