James Yap breaks silence on long-rumored trade: 'Hindi natin hawak 'yung ganung bagay'
James Yap watches Star's game against Meralco from behind the bench. Jaime Campos

JAMES Yap wants to be a Star for life.

But for someone who’s been in the PBA for so long, 'Big Game' James knows fully well no one is indispensable, not even a two-time league MVP like him.

Breaking his silence on trade rumors that have long swirled around him, the 34-year-old Yap  said that while he’s keeping his fingers crossed the reports aren't true, he is also keeping an open mind about finding himself in another uniform other than the Hotshots before his career is over.

“Kung ako ang tatanungin mo, gusto kong mag stay dito. Pero hindi naman natin hawak 'yung ganung bagay. Player lang tayo,” Yap related to SPIN.ph after watching from behind the bench as the Hotshots pulled off a gut-wrenching 104-103 win over the Meralco Bolts on Sunday night in the PBA Governors Cup.

“Kahit na ba sabhin natin dito ko na gusto mag-retire, hindi naman natin hawak yung sitwasyon,” added the longtime face of the franchise, who sat out the game due to a bruised pelvic bone he suffered in Star’s l106-93 loss to Phoenix.

“Sana hindi totoo.”

[See RUMOR OR FACT: Is Star up for sale and is James Yap on trading block]

San Miguel management has repeatedly denied there is any truth to the persistent rumors about Yap being offered previously to Blackwater, and much earlier to Mahindra.

But Yap knows the reality of life as a pro player. A lot of superstars have been traded before him, and there are no guarantees that he will be an exemption.

“Sa totoo lang, hindi ko na iniisip yun (trade),” he stressed, “pero siyempre dapat handa ka. Lahat naman ng players tanggap ang mga ganyang sitwasyon.”

Yap’s contract with Star expires by October after being given a two-month extension until the current season is over. He said no talks have been held yet about a new deal as the Hotshots are still in the thick of the fight for a playoff berth in the final conference of the year.

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He proudly cheered and personally encouraged the Hotshots from the bench as they lost grip of a 14-point fourth quarter lead, but kept their composure in the endgame to hack out the thrilling win against the Bolts on import Joel Wright’s floater just before the final buzzer.

It was only the second win in nine games for Star, but it was enough to keep its hopes alive in the quarterfinal race.

 Other than Yap, another player on Star’s injury list is big man Ian Sangalang.

“Ganun naman ang team namin na pagka may injured, merong iba na nag-iistep up,” he said of the overall team effort put up by Star despite playing with a depleted roster.

Just like the rest of the team, Yap admitted he is just as puzzled on what ails the Hotshots, considering they still have the same core which just two years ago was the toast of the entire league after winning the first grand slam in 20 years.

“Minsan tinatanong mo yung sarili mo kung ano yung kulang, sa personal, sa team,” said the 13-year veteran out of University of the East. “Iniisip mo na lang ganun talaga sa basketball, minsan hindi mo panahon. Pero pag panahon mo naman, grabe.”

The season-ending conference may not be going the Hotshots’ way at the moment, but with a new lease on life, Yap remained hopeful the trend will be reversed as the eliminations reaches its final stretch in the next two weeks.

“Ang magagawa mo na lang siguro maglaro na lang talaga. Huwag mo nang ipasok sa isip mo yung standings. The more ipasok mo sa isip yun, mas lalo lang dumarami yung distractions, lalong mapapasama 'yung laro mo,” he said.

“Laro lang, laban lang. Kahit paano, nanalo naman ngayon, so sana madala namin ito sa next game.”

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Star will have league leader TNT Katropa (Sept. 11) and Rain or Shine (Sept. 16) for its final two assignments, which Yap might miss as doctors advised him to rest in the next 10 days for his injury to fully heal.

Follow the writer on Twitter: @gerardmos