Asi Taulava, Tautuaa among possible options as Talk 'N Text searches for answers to Fajardo and Co.
Talk 'N Text coach Jong Uichico clearly needs someone like an Asi Taulava or a Moala Tautuaa in the middle if the Texters hope to keep up with teams like San Miguel, Purefoods and Ginebra. Art work by Joey Almadin

TALK 'N Text lorded it over the PBA from 2010 to 2012, winning four league championships with a talent-laden team that relied on chemistry and its dribble-drive offense.

But times have changed.

The Tropang Texters have fallen on hard times since winning the 2013 Philippine Cup under Norman Black, hitting rock bottom when they were swept by San Miguel Beer during the last Philippine Cup semifinals where the team simply had no answer for June Mar Fajardo.

In that series, the Texters desperately tried to make up for their lack of size in the middle by throwing double- and triple-teams at Fajardo, but ended up paying dearly as San Miguel gunners led by Alex Cabagnot had a picnic connecting from the outside.

That hole in the middle should be at the top of the agenda when Talk 'N Text coaches, officials and players met with owner Manny V. Pangilinan met on Tuesday. It is clear the team needs to have a dominant big man if it hopes to retain its place among the league elite.

Over the last two seasons, the Tropang Texters have found little success while rivals stocked up on big men, with San Miguel reinforcing its team with Fajardo, Ginebra acquiring Greg Slaughter and Japeth Aguilar, and Purefoods boosting its frontline with the arrival of Ian Sangalang.

As a result, Talk 'N Text lost to Ginebra in the 2013 Governors Cup playoffs before succumbing to San Mig Coffee (now Purefoods) the following year in the Philippine Cup quarterfinals, the Commissioner's Cup Finals and the Governors Cup semifinals before the sweep at the hands of the Beermen.

The Texters clearly need to re-stock their lineup and one option is through the next rookie draft, where the MVP camp already has five first-round picks and is looking to acquire another potential lottery pick from expansion side KIA Motors through a trade, according to sources.

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[See Talk 'N Text ready to trade Castro to get its hands on blue-chips Ravena, Parks]

From the crop of rookie prospects, Talk 'N Text's best big man option appears to be Fil-Tongan Moala Tautuaa, the 6-6 former Asean Basketball League (ABL) standout who is currently complying with PBA rookie draft requirements by suiting up in the D-League.

However, there is also a growing clamor for the Texters to bring back Asi Taulava, the 6-9 man-mountain who at 42 has caught a second wind in his career through self-discipline and religious plyometrics training.

Taulava currently plays for the Texters' sister team NLEX.

So who should it be for Talk 'N Text - Taulava or Tautuaa?

Former Air21 Express team manager and now San Miguel assistant manager Danby Henares believes a Taulava in the frontline can make a difference for Talk 'N Text.

Henares said he heaved a sigh of relief that Talk 'N Text did not bite at the suggestion of acquiring Taulava before the trade deadline and ahead of the semifinal series against the Beermen.

"Asi could have given us a problem in the playoffs. That way siguro we could have made so much adjustments in the middle," said Henares.

"Taulava is still one of the most dominant players in the league. I think he is one of the top players in the PBA right now and probably one of the Top 10 all time," he added.

Henares said he won't be surprised if one day he finds Taulava back in a Talk 'N Text uniform.

"Of course, I would be happy to see Asi play in a TNT uniform. I look forward to it... Hopefully," he said.

Malaysia Dragons coach Ariel Vanguardia believes Tautuaa can be a game-changer for the Texters if they can tab the wide-bodied forward in the coming draft.

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"Okay si Moala 'pag nakuha nila. Yan nga ang ginagamit ko dati na pang depensa kina (seven-footer) Chris Charles at Tim Thomas. Kayang kaya naman," said Vanguardia.

"Kaya naman bantayan nung Tautuaa yung June Mar, although medyo maliit sa size. Kasi 6-6 lang si Moala eh. Pero if ever, give and take yan. Mabilis kasi si Moala eh," he added.

Vanguardia, however, bared the agile Tautuaa is more of an open-court player who can fit the system of Rain or Shine coach Yeng Guiao.

"Nakikipagtakbuhan kasi 'yang si Tautuaa eh. Kaya sakto siya sa Rain or Shine. Big man na may mabibilis na paa," said the now Malaysian-based coach.

Vanguardia, a former Talk 'N Text coach, said the best-case scenario is to see both Taulava and Tautuaa in the Texters camp.

"Pero mas maganda kung makukuha ng Talk 'N Text si Asi tapos mate-train niya si Tautuaa. Perfect na perfect yun sa transfer of technology," he said.

Meanwhile, former Air21 coach Franz Pumaren favors a Taulava transfer to Talk 'N Text but feels there is no urgency for it since the Commissioner's Cup format allows teams to get imports 6-9 or taller.

"Malaki kasi ang import next conference so baka hindi humanap ng local na big man ang Talk 'N Text," said Pumaren.

But he has one concern.

"Kaso kung 'yan ang iisipin ng Talk 'N Text, dapat maaalala rin nila na sa Commissioner's Cup, 6-9 din height ng import ng San Miguel, Purefoods at Ginebra, kaya andun pa rin yung June Mar at Slaughter," said Pumaren.

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