Guiao not trading Asi Taulava, but says big man must adapt to stay relevant in new NLEX system
NLEX coach Yeng Guiao isn't entertaining any trade offers for Asi Taulava but admits the big man needs to overhaul his game to stay relevant. Jerome Ascano/ Jaime Campos

AT 43, Asi Taulava needs to overhaul not only his game but his entire skill set to remain an integral part of NLEX under new coach Yeng Guiao.

For so long accustomed to being the focal point of the offense not only at NLEX but in his previous teams, the veteran big man must, at this late stage in his career, learn to adapt to the fast-paced system being put in place by Guiao to stay relevant.

Guiao granted his demands from the former league MVP are not simple - and the process in no way easy.

"These are big adjustments on Asi's part," the multi-titled coach told SPIN.ph on Tuesday. "But Asi is a professional and I have high expectations from him."

The 6-9 Taulava has been silent throughout the whole process in the two-and-a-half months that Guiao has taken charge of NLEX in lieu of Boyet Fernandez, but there's no doubt that he's struggling through the transition.

Just last season, Taulava averaged 13.86 points and 10.31 rebounds to earn a place in the league's Mythical Second Team. Now his averages are down to less than two points and three rebounds a game as his minutes went down from an average of 31.83 minutes last season to under 15 minutes.

The dwindling playing time has consequently piqued the interest of teams which, feeling Taulava may no longer be wanted at NLEX, have expressed interest in exploring possible trades.

SPIN.ph has reported that at least two teams are eager to explore trades if NLEX is willing to talk - a development which Guiao confirmed on Tuesday.

"Yes, we've received feelers from other teams (on a possible trade for Taulava), but we don't want to listen to those offers or entertain them," Guiao, winner of seven league championships including two with last team Rain or Shine, said.

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"We're not giving up on anybody, much less Asi."

[See Two teams eager to explore trade options if NLEX willing to let Taulava go]

Still, Guiao said it will take a major overhaul of Taulava's game to make him fit into system that requires him to run up and down the floor at every opportunity, hit the mid- and long-range jumper consistently when given the shot, and actively defend pick and rolls.

Under Guiao's system, big men are asked - no, required is a better term - to keep pace with the guards in the transition and, on defense, step out to 'actively defend' pick and rolls.

"At this time, Asi is uncomfortable  doing both," said Guiao of his big man, who is seen lagging behind during NLEX fastbreaks in the first few games of the season.

While Taulava is one of the most superbly conditioned 43-year-old athletes you'll ever find, Guiao pointed out it takes twice the effort than a 28 year old to control your weight or stay in top shape once you reach that age.

"Age is a factor, too, and although he works hard in practice and is in good shape, Asi brings with him 260 pounds while running up and down the floor," said Guiao.

Asked if NLEX is calling plays for Taulava, Guiao emphatically answered, "We don't call plays for anybody."

Still, the demands in this transition period are not one-way.

Guiao said he and his assistant coaches at NLEX continue to search for ways to capitalize on the strengths in Taulava's game and make him more effective - without compromising the system they are trying to put in place at NLEX.

To help Taulava in the process, Guiao said NLEX coaches are also working to help the many-time national player get into the shape required and polish the skills he needs to shine in the new system.

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"We know Asi can still attract the double team and collapse the defense, and he's a big body we can use to guard the likes of Greg Slaughter and June Mar Fajardo," said Guiao.

"But we can't do it using the style he's used to. He can't always post up because you likely won' get the ball at the post (in our system). So we in the coaching staff continue to search for ways to make him effective in our system without sacrificing our offense."

So where is the transition at this point, Guiao was asked.

"This is our first conference together," he said. "We're still in the process of observing how Taulava adapts at this late stage in his career."

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