Asi Taulava knows he’s no longer a spring chicken the moment he stepped on the court Friday to mark his return to the PBA after playing in the Asean Basketball League early this year.
But at 40, the 6’9” Fil-Tongan showed he could still keep pace with younger big men in the PBA, defending the post and playing more as a facilitator to help Air21 pull off a shocking 106-102 shocking victory over the slumping Talk ‘N Text side.
“I’m so old now,” said Taulava laughing, but still very much in shape to be able to play 32 minutes.
As PBA fans came in early to watch the “Rock’s” return after a year-long absence in Asia’s pioneering league, Taulava didn’t showcase his vintage post moves and power-plays in the paint.
Instead, Taulava showcased his passing skills, dishing off nifty assists outside to the waiting hands of the sweet-shooting KG Canaleta.
The result? Canaleta tore the Tropang Texters’ defense to shreds with six triples, en route to a 30-point night.
Taulava, the 2003 PBA MVP, completed his debut this season for the Express with seven points, nine rebounds, six assists and two blocks.
The soft-spoken Air21 giant made it clear he won’t be grabbing the limelight from his established teammates at the Express. Instead, he’ll be there to provide leadership and hopefully, be part of the piece of the puzzle for Air21, whose PBA Governors Cup quarterfinal bid was revived following that close win over Talk ‘N Text.
“Well, I’m just going out there playing and helping the guys, just being the veteran in the team and not going out there and not dominate the game,” said Taulava.
“I just try to fit in, and at the same time, coach ran a good game plan for us. Everybody has the same goal, playing to win.”
Come Sunday, Taulava will be facing his old team, the Meralco Bolts as the Express try to keep their steady climb back to quarterfinal.