FOR the right deal, Meralco is willing to give up the rights to Asi Taulava to pave the way for the ageless Asean Basketball League MVP's return to the PBA, Bolts coach Ryan Gregorio told Spin.ph on Friday.
Aware of Taulava's expressed desire to return to the PBA and play for Barangay Ginebra, Gregorio insists that the Bolts "will want to have someone with the same value in return."
“Never misconstrue that we are blocking his return (to the PBA)," Gregorio said. "We are willing to listen to whatever offer they (interested teams) want.
“Asi has signified his intention to play for Ginebra … hindi namin haharangin yun,” added the outspoken coach. “Pero Ginebra has to talk to us, offer us - we will say yes or no (to the proposal).
“Handa akong tumulong kay Asi, but it’s really up to the interested party. We are willing to listen, but of course, not for a song,” Gregorio added without mentioning what he specifically wants in return.
The Meralco coach admitted the team's plans for this season were left in disarray when Taulava turned down a two-year offer with maximum salary to join the San Miguel Beermen in the ABL.
“It was really reaping time for us now supposedly, (but) Asi left us with a huge vacuum and our team’s campaign was derailed,” said the multi-titled mentor.
“From my understanding, (Asi) left us saying he wants to play in a league lower than the PBA because he wants to be with his family more often - and we respected that decision.”
But Meralco has since moved on and is willing to part with the rights for Taulava, Gregorio added.
“Pero ngayon, sanay na kami nang wala siya. That’s why we can already let him go - he has no value to our team now eh,” the former PBA Press Corps Coach of the Year awardee said.
However, that doesn't mean the Bolts are willing to let go of Taulava for a song, he added.
“Pero ibang usapan na when he said he wanted to play and return to the PBA, where he really belongs,” said Gregorio. “But to say, ‘The ball is in our hands’ on the issue, that’s not true.
“Hindi naman kami ang may kailangan kay Asi na eh. So they (Ginebra) should offer us - then we will agree or not agree."
Gregorio believes that Taulava still has what it takes to play at a higher level in the PBA, as shown by his stellar play in the ABL where he led from the front in the Beermen's run to a maiden title.
“Time is not on his side - and this is the perfect time to return (to the PBA) because he is on a high,” Gregorio said.
Gregorio bared that the Taulava deal might be the last transaction they will work on before the season-ending Governors Cup kicks off on August 14.
As for the reported trade talks with Air 21 involving Meralco’s Carlo Sharma, Rey Guevarra and Vic Manuel and the Express’ John Wilson, Noy Baclao and James Sena, Gregorio said "it hasn’t developed yet. And there’s nothing to decide on.”