WITH Air21's history of pulling off last-minute trades, all eyes are again on the Express and the San Miguel group as talk of an eleventh-hour deal for veteran big man Asi Taulava persists.
Speculations that Taulava is eventually bound for Barangay Ginebra have grown the minute the Express acquired the playing rights of the former league MVP from Meralco in exchange for point guard Mike Cortez last week.
Another move for Taulava is anticipated ahead of the September 23 deadline for lineup revisions among teams, which comes exactly a day after the end of the eliminations of the PBA Governors Cup.
As things stand, the Express are in the bottom of the standings with a lowly 2-6 (win-loss) slate and are in danger of becoming one of two teams likely to be eliminated - an opening which many believe the team will use to trade Taulava to the playoff-bound Gin Kings at the eleventh hour.
But a source was quick to quash the notion, informing Spin.ph about a gentleman’s agreement between Air21 and Meralco that Taulava will have to suit up for the Express for at least two conferences before he is dealt to another team.
That means the 6-foot-10 Fil-Tongan is bound to play for the franchise at least until after the 2013-14 Philippine Cup before any deal could be made.
“At least, after the All-Filipino Cup ang usapan diyan eh,” said the source who refused to be named as he is not authorized to speak on the matter, but is privy to the dealings.
“Meaning, hindi nila (Air21) puwedeng bitawan si Asi sa ibang team until after two conferences.”
Two years ago, Air21 relegated guard Josh Urbiztondo to the unrestricted free agent list when the team was already on the brink of eliminations, paving the way for San Mig Coffee (when it was still known as B-Meg) to tap the services of the Fil-Am playmaker.
But the source doesn’t see the same thing happening in the case of Taulava, insisting no less than Air21 governor Lito Alvarez initiated the idea of a 'no-trade agreement' on Taulava when he made the deal with Meralco.
Efforts to contact the amiable Air21 governor have not been successful as of posting time.
In his two games so far with the Express against former teams Talk `N Text and Meralco, Asi has logged 10.5 points, 14.5 rebounds, and 4.5 assists a game - numbers that should help the cause of a Ginebra that is struggling in the absence of injured big man Japeth Aguilar.