THE recent sale of Air21 to NLEX has opened the window for a reunion between two of the PBA’s most successful tandems the last decade in Asi Taulava and Jimmy Alapag.
Taulava and Alapag were longtime teammates at Talk ‘N Text, their partnership starting in 2003 when the slotman was hailed as the league MVP and Alapag the Rookie of the Year after the two led the Texters to the All-Filipino crown.
Since their separation, Taulava, the league’s oldest player at 41, and Alapag, a veteran himself at 36, have continued to defy Father Time by putting up inspiring individual campaigns for separate teams, the Express for the Taulava and TNT for the latter.
But with his rights now owned by the Road Warriors, a sister team of TNT, Taulava has a chance to be reunited with the Texters star point guard.
Great lengths have to crossed, however, for a reunion to materialize.
Even with Taulava’s rights now owned by the MVP group, sister teams cannot make straight trades, needing a conduit to complete swaps.
Still, Taulava, whose contract expires next month when he becomes a restricted free agent, expressed excitement at the prospect of reuniting with Alapag.
“That should be a good option for me,” Taulava admitted. “I will never turn down the possibility of reuniting with Jimmy. He’s like a brother to me, we had a good run when we were together, so I don’t see any problem doing it again soon.”
“If and when the bosses at Talk ‘N Text want it, why wouldn’t I want it?” added the affable giant, who could be an asset for the Texters after averaging 14.7 points, 12.4 rebounds, and two assists in 37.7 minutes this season.
“Talk ‘N Text is a very strong team, everybody knows that. But they seem to also lack somebody tough in the middle,” the hard-banging slotman said.
Alapag also welcomed the possibility of playing with his old pal once again.
“It’s out of my control but if an opportunity comes up, it’s something that I’d be open to. We had success together early on in our careers, so we’ll see what happens.”
“Anytime you play with a family member or someone you share the memories of championships, you’re always open to maybe having an opportunity to play again,” said Alapag, who believes Taulava is still a hot commodity even at his age.
“Asi still has what it takes to dominate, absolutely. From what he is showing right now, with the way he is playing … he can help any team,” he said of Taulava who he treats as an ‘old rookie’ like him.
“Maybe we’re the older version of Kobe and Shaq, but again… we’ll see,” laughed Alapag.
Turning serious, the TNT captain has positive words for his former teammate who left Talk n Text in 2007 after a nine-year stint with Texters.
“I think the fans also look forward to it (reunion). Again, Asi was the franchise guy here for a long time. Seeing him play at a high level right now, it says a lot about his work ethic and durability. So (his return here) is always a possibility,” Alapag said.
Even Talk ‘N Text team owner Manny V. Pangilinan is all praises for Taulava, who once played for his arch-rival company, San Miguel Corp., in the ABL.
“He’s (Asi) playing like a twenty-six-year old. I told him that,” said Pangilinan who did not deny approaching Taulava once to praise his renewed performance.
Asked if there are plans to bring back Taulava to Talk ‘N Text where they can give him a fitting retirement run, Pangilinan just left it to the prerogative of Talk n Text management.
“I don’t know. I leave that to the team’s management,” he said with a smile.
Taulava had been a force to reckon with in the paint at both ends of the court where he normally averaged in double-double figures, until he was traded to the Texters’ sister team, Meralco Bolts in 2010.
In his two season stint at Meralco, Taulava spent most of the time on the bench and looking like on the verge of retirement.
‘The Rock’ then decided to forego his contract renewal at Meralco to seek greener pasture in the ABL, where he led the San Miguel Beermen-Philippines to the championship last season.
After his stint at ABL, Taulava was able to get a slot at Air 21 through a trade with Meralco.