AIR21 Express team owner Bert Lina said he is happy with how the Express have been rebuilt over the last two years.
Lina particularly praised the 'Midas touch' of Air21 governor Lito Alvarez who he said has transformed the Express into a team to be reckoned with in the pro league next season.
“Kita mo naman, two years ago, wala tayong players dito,” said Lina, a longtime basketball patron.
They Said It!
“Lito (Alvarez) is one of the best basketball architects in the country. Hindi ako magugulat kung may mga magagandang trades ulit for our team,” - Bert Lina, Linaheim Corporate Services, Inc. president
After a series of trades, the team is now teeming with talent like ageless Asi Taulava, KG Canaleta, Bonbon Custodio, Vic Manuel, Carlo Sharma, Joseph Yeo, and Mark Cardona.
And just hours before the 2013 rookie draft, Lina bared that he won’t be surprised if Alvarez has some more aces up his sleeve.
“He’s been there, done that. Lito is one of the best basketball architects in the country. Hindi ako magugulat kung may mga magagandang trades ulit for our team,” added the Linaheim Corporate Services, Inc. president.
Lina also praised Alvarez’s eye for talent, pointing out how the Air21 governor got unknown Yousef Taha with the 11th pick in last year's draft and turned him into a player good enough to be traded for Mike Cortez, Asi Taulava and later on Cardona.
Alvarez told Spin.ph that he is still working on how to further improve their roster, but insisted that given the rich talent in the 2013 draft he’ll be happy to stick with the Express' 15th pick overall.
“Maraming talent 'yung draft na 'yan. Kaya sa pick natin, may aabot pa dyan,’ said Alvarez, who nonetheless bared that he’s looking for a veteran point guard who can serve as his team’s 'glue guy.'
“Pero syempre, best available talent tayo pagdating ng pick natin,” he said.
Asked if he regrets losing the right to this year’s top overall pick which Air21 traded to Barangay Ginebra in a previous transaction, Alvarez just shook his head.
Air21 traded away the 2013 first-round pick in the three-team deal that gave them Nino Canaleta and John Wilson from Ginebra and Noy Baclao and Rob Reyes from Petron.
Petron, for its part, got Magi Sison, Paolo Hubalde, and Air21's second-round pick in 2014 while Ginebra got Elmer Espiritu and the Express' 2013 first-round pick which eventually become the No. 1 pick overall in a lottery.
“Okay lang yan. Meron naman tayong nakuhang mga beterano sa team. Ipagpapalit mo ba yun sa first pick?” he said with a smile.
“I was able to get Sharma, Manuel, Taulava and Cardona. Hindi na masama 'yun for Slaughter,” he added.
Alvarez for his part gave the credit back to his boss, saying: “syempre, hindi naman tayo makakagalaw kung walang basbas ni Mr. Lina.”
“And I think, with his continued support … asahan ang mas malakas na Air21 Express ngayong papasok na season,” added Alvarez.
Meanwhile, here is the order in today’s PBA draft at Robinson's Place in Ermita, Manila.
1. Brgy. Ginebra San Miguel
2. San Mig Coffee Mixers
3. Rain or Shine Elastopainters
4. Barako Bull Energy Cola
5. Barako Bull Energy Cola
6. Barako Bull Energy Cola
7. Globalport Batang Pier
8. Alaska Aces
9. Rain or Shine Elastopainters
10. San Mig Coffee Mixers
11. Globalport Batang Pier
12. Rain or Shine Elastopainters
13. San Mig Coffee Mixers
14. Barako Bull Energy Cola
15. Air 21 Express*
16. Alaska Aces*
17. Talk n’ Text Tropang Texters
18. Alaska Aces
19. Rain or Shine Elastopainters
20. Barako Bull Energy Cola