(Ninth of a 10-part series serving as our primer for the 2014 PBA season)
Talk ‘N Text
2012-2013 record: 35-21
Head coach: Norman Black
Rookie: Eliud Poligrates
Offseason free-agent additions: Nonoy Baclao
Gone from last season: Rabeh Al-Hussaini
Holdovers: Jimmy Alapag, Harvey Carey, Ryan Reyes, Sean Anthony, Larry Fonacier, Jai Reyes, Jason Castro, Kelly Williams*, John Ferriols, Ranidel de Ocampo, Ali Peek, Aaron Aban
Reserves: Rob Reyes, Robby Celiz
* returning from leave of absence
Strengths: Minus the distractions from Gilas Pilipinas' campaign in last year's Fiba Asia championships, there's no reason to believe that Talk 'N Text won't contend for any of the three league championships this season.
The Tropang Texters' lineup remains formidable, with Jimmy Alapag, Ryan Reyes and Ali Peek still among the best in their respective positions - regardless of their advanced age. Ranidel de Ocampo and Larry Fonacier are at the peak of their careers while Jason Castro already represents the present and future of the franchise.
On the other hand, the return of Kelly Williams, the acquisition of Sean Anthony last season, and the offseason trade that brought in Noy Baclao have fortified Talk 'N Text's frontline while sparing the team of the unpredictability of Rabeh Al-Hussaini.
That plus the load of championship experience and years of playing together this team has made the Texters hard to ignore in any discussion of top title contenders this season.
Weaknesses: As with most veteran-laden teams, health becomes an issue especially towards the playoffs when teams need to be at the peak of their powers. Unfortunately, Talk 'N Text has rarely managed to be 100 percent healthy these past few seasons.
Reyes, Alapag, de Ocampo have struggled with injuries of late and there is still uncertainty over the health status of Williams, regardless of his return.
Talk 'N Text has managed to endure injuries on the way to winning the league's sole all-Filipino tournament the past three seasons. But with all its top rivals upgrading their lineups, that may no longer be the case this season.
Season outlook: Coach Norman Black's squad is a cinch for the Final Four, where the team can count on its championship experience to make a big difference in a playoff-type, pressure situation.
The team, though, didn't get any younger this season and in fact had just one rookie pick - 27th overall - in Eliud Poligrates. So this season may be the best indicator on how long the Tropang Texters can turn back the hands of time and resist the desire to rebuild for the future, perhaps with a team built around Castro.
Power rating: 4 stars