A DESPERATE Barangay Ginebra needs to win on Wednesday to stay alive in the race for the PBA Governors Cup playoffs. Its opponent, NLEX, has nothing more to play for.
But Ginebra has one problem: Asi Taulava.
The 6-9 veteran slotman never fails to bring his best whenever he plays against his 'favorite team' and Taulava vowed it will be no different when Ginebra fights for dear life in their game 7 p.m. game at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
“I just love playing Ginebra. There’s something against them that gives me motivation - the crowd and the beauty of playing against the most popular ballclub and solid fans in the land,” Taulava told Spin.ph a day before his leads his team anew against Ginebra.
“But of course, aside from it all, there was this instance in my life when I really wanted to play for them,” said Taulava.
The records will bear out his claim. Taulava recalled that he was 4-1 (win-loss) against Ginebra when he played for Air21 after a stint in the Asean Basketball League (ABL) and 2-0 during his time with NLEX.
Of course, Taulava's desire to play for Ginebra before he calls it a career is not a secret - it was his biggest wish, in fact, when he blew the candles on his cake during his 40th birthday in March 2013.
He also came close to becoming a King.
“Long before I thought I was going to play for them, but it didn’t pan out. Maybe I wouldn’t fit into their program or maybe some people thought I am too old. I was already playing for San Miguel (in the ABL) then, remember?” the 42-year-old former league MVP said.
“I thought I was going there (Ginebra) after my San Miguel stint, but I also had this gentlemen’s agreement in my contract at Air 21 (from Meralco) that I had to stay one year with Air 21,” he added. “And before it lapsed, Air 21 was sold to NLEX.”
Taulava even recalled how he was already looking forward to bolstering the frontline of Ginebra headed by Japeth Aguilar and then incoming rookie Gregory Slaughter.
“I was really looking forward to helping out those young boys in the paint, but it just didn’t materialize that time,” said Taulava, who is averaging 14.25 points, 11.24 rebounds and 1.96 assists per game over the last three seasons.
Taulava admitted that playing for Ginebra has always been his dream from the time he was brought in to the PBA by Mobiline (now Talk 'N Text) as a direct hire in 1998.
His chance of joining Ginebra is dim, but the man mountain insisted he is happy to be with NLEX.
“This team has a lot of potential. We just have to get the experience we need especially the young guys. Obviously this team has a lot of promise,” he said.
“I may not be on the team I once looked up to, but definitely I am with the team owned by one of the most passionate sports patrons in the country, boss MVP (Manny V. Pangilinan), there’s nothing more I could ask for,” added the 13-time PBA All Star.
And how does Ginebra fans treat him during games?
“They used to taunt me but not anymore, because they know I feel more motivated with it. Plus the respect they give me since I really wanted to play for them before has always been there,” he said.
“And the fans are happy to see one player who plays 100 percent every night, and I am one of those players,” added the former Brigham Young University stalwart.