AFTER Air21 finished the PBA Philippine Cup with just three wins in 14 games, an obviously disappointed Express governor Lito Alvarez spoke before players and coaches and, in a somber tone, warned the team on what to expect in the coming weeks.
“Nag-open up si Boss Lito eh. Talagang nilabas niya lahat. Ang sama rin kasi ng performance namin ngayong conference,” said the team insider, describing the gloomy mood inside the Express dugout after a 94-104 defeat to Rain or Shine on Saturday night.
A 3-11 record for a team that went through a decent buildup from last season obviously doesn't cut it, and Alvarez got that message across during his talk - and in the subsequent move to deal the team's best player, KG Canaleta, to Talk 'N Text at the trade deadline.
“Nabanggit ni Boss Lito 'yun. Kaya nung na-execute kanina, nawindang na talaga kami," said the insider, moments after Canaleta’s transfer to Talk 'N Text in exchange for Sean Anthony, Eliud Poligrates and a 2016 first-round pick was approved by the Commissioner's Office.
And guess what’s forthcoming?
Sophomore big man and versatile banger Vic Manuel has also been told that he is bound to move, most likely to be shipped to the San Mig Coffee Mixers - a fact Manuel himself admitted.
“Oo sinabihan nga ako ng ganun, na baka daw mapunta ako sa San Mig. Kapalit ko daw si Yancy (De Ocampo),” said the puzzled forward. “Okay lang wala namang magagawa. Nagulat din ako dun eh.”
“Matuloy kaya yun?” Manuel asked. “Wala din akong idea talaga. Bahala na!”
Another Air 21 player who is reportedly on the trading block is Bonbon Custodio. But a source bared that so far, no team has been showing keen interest in the gungho former University of the East Red Warrior.
“Muntik na yan eh, kaso umurong yung mga teams na inaalok. Ewan ko ba, siguro kailangan ring ma-realize ni Bonbon na mas maging mature. 'Yun din sinasabi sa kanya ni Boss Lito,” said the insider.
But by now, the rest of the players know that if Canaleta can be traded, no one else is safe. Not even established stars like Asi Taulava and Joseph Yeo.
Though fans have criticized his decisions in the past, Alvarez has been able to transform the former Shopinas.com Clickers (old name of Air21 Express) into a formidable force having acquired the likes of Taulava, Yeo, Canaleta, and Mark Cardona in past trades.
However, unless the movements translate into wins, guess Alvarez's wheeling and dealing is far from done.