DESPITE the evolution of today’s game, it seems one thing has never changed: reliable big men are still necessary in building a winning team.
Asi Taulava is a living proof of that as he turns Air21 into a legitimate contender while continuing to hold his own against the new breed of big men in the league like June Mar Fajardo of San Miguel Beer, Ginebra’s Greg Slaughter, Alaska’s Sonny Thoss and Marc Pingris of San Mig.
“When you got the young bigs and the older veterans, well, it’s a big man’s world out there, so if you ain’t got the size, the big men will punish you at the post,” Taulava said after teaming up with Air21 import Dominique Sutton in manhandling the shorter Meralco squad, 80-67 on Wednesday in the Governors’ Cup at the Philsports Arena.
Taulava said Fajardo, Slaughter and Thoss are all lording it over the league and he continues to challenge himself to keep pace at his age.
“It’s been a long time since you’ve seen big guys playing in the PBA altogether, and the competition is this fun,” said the 41-year-old Taulava, whose revitalized career in the pro league enabled him to figure in the top five of the MVP race this season.
Taulava, who registered 22 points and grabbed 16 rebounds against the Bolts, said his competitive drive has been fueled by his doubters, who dismissed him as washed out after his return from a stint in the Asean Basketball League.
“We (Express) came a long way, especially when I got here about less than a year ago,” said the one-time league MVP. “But the biggest thing when I got here is I’m always on a mission to prove my doubters wrong.
“Everybody’s saying I was old, my run at the ABL (Asean Basketball League) was a fluke. But I just want to bring that attitude because I always feel I have a chip on my shoulders to try to prove everything that always doubted Air21.”
With three games left in their single-round eliminations schedule, Taulava believes the Express have a strong chance to end up at the top four and earn one of the twice-to-beat incentives as long as they keep winning.
“Right now, the focus is staying the pace for the playoffs. Anything else beside that is out of the picture,” explained Taulava.
“We want to stay behind the top four teams, and just stay in the mix. We want to give ourselves a chance for the top four and the twice-to-beat edge.”
Air21 will have a four-day break before returning to action next Monday against defending Governors Cup champion San Mig Super Coffee.