Dec. 04, 2016
What is up with Asi Taulava's minutes?
I just noticed that Asi Taulava isn’t getting the numbers he had when Boyet Fernandez was still at helm in NLEX. At the start of the season, new coach Yeng Guiao had expressed his move to develop the youngsters and give the veterans less time on the court. The players Guiao called out are Taulava and Enrico Villanueva (in lieu to new acquisition Bradwyn Guinto as well as erstwhile benchwarmers Raul Soyud and Eric Camson).
Soyud and Camson had 14 points apiece when the Meralco Bolts drubbed the Road Warriors. Guinto – who impressed in his first game – was held to five points in the outing but Taulava finished the game scoreless in twelve measly minutes.
So this begs the question – is this the beginning of the end of Asi Taulava’s professional career?
Good God I hope not.
I am an Asi Taulava fan. I hated how the Meralco Bolts used him when he was called to backstop the new blood a few years ago and I hate the fact that he’s wasted in the sidelines. Sure, he is old. But is it right to bench Taulava? Maybe I am going fantard right now... but The Rock just scored a Mythical Second Team citation alongside tag team partner Sean Anthony last season. If you pit those two with a high profile import (like let's say the return of Al Thornton), I can see the Road Warriors murdering the opposing squad. How can you not love the goods packed by this 6'10 double-double magnet? Instead, we are seeing Taulava languishing in the sidelines. Now I don’t know if he really approved of this... because if he did, then I don’t know if he’s nursing an injury or considering a front office move. Even if you are built like a tank, in order to properly function one must be operated regularly. And then using my 40-ish friends as examples, old age will probably make people less enduring to shit. Finally, when a player thinks he’s still a superstar and his coach plays him as a supplement, resentment kicks in.
At 43, the last thing Taulava needs to do is to hide from the spotlight.
But here’s the thing – he has Yeng Guiao as coach... and I have yet to see anyone cross him (except for Ivan Johnson but that dude is just insane). The fiery mentor is probably the most unorthodox coach in league history but at the same time, his formula is tried and tested. He likes physicality but rues violence. He hates it when his guards throw bad shots but approves it when his big men jack up jumpers from the far end. And while he loves it when his players strive, he hates the superstar tag.
He’s probably the only coach that would love to use the current roster of Mahindra... which says a lot because that team is crappy as shit.
Guiao is also a yardstick when it comes to title-hunting coaches. I know his championship history isn’t as abundant to that of Cone, Baby Dalupan, and Norman Black... but gosh darn it, his teams rarely miss the semi-final round.
With the current crop of coaches, I would rank Yeng Guiao second to Tim Cone. Guiao has a unique way of putting up his squad. He can whip up a ragtag core into a smackdown-laying unit. His championship pieces like Lordy Tugade, Junthy Valenzuela, Mick Pennisi, Carlo Sharma, Mike Hrabak, Topex Robinson, and Enrico Villanueva never really enjoyed the same success after they parted ways with Guiao. When Red Bull was at its peak, he favoured Tugade and Valenzuela over Vince Hizon to successful results. Just last season, he managed to “clean up” Jewel Ponferada into the player he is now. At first, people saw Ponferada going to Rain or Shine for Jervy Cruz as some sort of salary dump but he managed to make the former Adamson frontliner into a credible inside threat.
Right now, it is as if Guiao is training three Jewel Ponferadas!
The current bind of Taulava is probably similar to what Mark Caguioa had upon the entry of Cone to the lineup. The Spark may have slowed down, but he is still an offensive threat. However, in order to send Ginebra to the Tim Cone era, Caguioa and Jayjay Helterbrand had to lose their minutes. When it mattered though, Cone called upon The Fast and The Furious to provide the never say die attitude. Just in a recent ballgame, Cone applauded Caguioa’s effort in stopping Rain or Shine’s James Yap.
Who would ever think Mark Caguioa would be applauded for his defense?
It’s gotta be the same case with Ageless Asi. I guess this is the first time Guiao is in a spot where his budget isn’t as limited (because he is now coaching for the MVP group) but as always, he needs to start from scratch. Apart from E-Vil, no other player has played for Guiao. Kevin Alas came close when he was picked by the Rain or Shine Elasto Painters as the second overall pick of the 2014 PBA Draft (his rights was then moved to Mahinda and eventually to Talk N Text). Taulava’s skills will always be there but in order for them to reach a semifinal feel in NLEX’s gameplay, Guiao needs to develop his players. For two seasons, Camson rot under the former administration. Case in point: Camson played in just nine games... and Soyud played in just four. Guinto is a new find while Fonso Gotladera has yet to log a minute. With Villanueva down with a MCL, Mac Baracael and Glenn Khobuntin could be in line for longer playing time.
In case NLEX reaches the playoffs, I’m pretty sure we’ll see Asi getting the playing time he deserves... which is around 20 to 25 minutes since Guiao also has this penchant of not using his wards past the 30-minute mark. I don’t see Taulava moving elsewhere as he just signed a big-time two-year deal and it’s possible that he’ll become the second player to have his number retired by TNT/Mobiline.
It’s hard to watch Asi sit in the sidelines though. If I was his coach, I would have him enforce his will until he pleads rest. I thought I can get used to him in the sidelines but after retiring in Meralco, going insane in the ABL, and going ageless in Air21, I thought otherwise.
Let’s just hope and see what the future holds for The Rock.