Taulava yet to finalize NLEX deal, but excited to uphold D-League champs' winning culture
Asi Taulava is hoping to do even better after coming up with double-double averages for the Express last season. Jerome Ascano 

IT may seem like Asi Taulava’s comeback had been cut short when Air21 decided to sell its PBA franchise. But the Fil-Tongan center is actually excited with the change, believing that NLEX’s winning ways in the Developmental League can translate into success on the big stage.

His contract with the Road Warriors is yet to be finalized but the 6-foot-9 Taulava says he would like to stay with the team, pointing to NLEX’s six D-League championships as the reason behind his excitement.

“That’s why I like to stay (with NLEX). Because when they came in to PBA, they won six of seven championships in the D-League,” Taulava told Spin.ph. “They have the experience, they have the tradition of wanting to win.”

The ageless big man was a member of last season’s Mythical First Team for his superlative performance with the Express and just last week received the Comeback Player of the Year award from the PBA Press Corps.

Taulava averaged 14.7 points, 12.3 rebounds and 2.0 assists for the Express last season, helping the Bert Lina-owned franchise to a semifinal finish in the Commissioner’s Cup and a quarterfinal finish in the Governors Cup.

The Road Warriors are set to debut in their maiden season this October, just a few months after purchasing the Air21 Express franchise.

“Next season, I have a bigger dream which is to help NLEX. When everything is settled for my contract, my goal is to lead them to the championship, that’s my ultimate dream. I want to be given a chance to win the championship,” Taulava.

Last June, NLEX won the PBA D-League Foundation Cup behind its talented core of now incoming PBA rookies Kevin Alas, Jake Pascual, Ronald Pascual and Matt Ganuelas Rosser on the way to its sixth league title in seven conferences.

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NLEX purchased the Air21 franchise before the end of June and Taulava is hoping they can build on the winning culture the Express achieved last season as they work alongside Rosser, the lone rookie pick for the incoming NLEX squad this year.

“They say it’s (PBA) the big boys league, but I think they (NLEX management) made a big investment in Air21, especially with the kind of year we had. And now, we have the resources to get the extra players we need,” said the 41-year-old Taulava, who will be entering his 16 PBA season this October.

Follow the writer on Twitter: @richava