Why NLEX hired Thornton vs a taller import
MANILA, Philippines – The NLEX Road Warriors didn't utilize their right to recruit an import with unlimited height for the 2015 PBA Commissioner's Cup because they wanted to acquire a player who could complement the skill-set of big man Asi Taulava.
Road Warriors head coach Boyet Fernandez told Rappler on Thursday, January 1, that NLEX will bring in 6-foot-8 forward Al Thornton next conference because his ability to spread the floor and play both forward positions is a good fit with the post-oriented play of Taulava, the team's starting center.
NLEX had the opportunity to recruit an import with unlimited height because they were one of the 4 teams (Barako Bull, KIA, Blackwater) to finish with the lowest records in the Philippine Cup elimination round.
Fernandez also said that Taulava will remain with the franchise despite talks of the 41-year-old potentially being shipped to sister team Talk 'N Text – the same club the former PBA MVP played majority of his career with.
"He will still remain as our captain ball and my number one player on the team," said Fernandez, who called the rumors "chismis (gossip)."
"Hindi totoo yun (it's not true)," he added. "We didn't take advantage of the unlimited height import because I want Asi to stay with us for a really long time. If we would trade him, why get a shorter [import]?"
Taulava averaged 16.2 PPG, 11.2 RPG, and 2.4 APG for NLEX last conference, playing mostly in the block scoring on hook shots, layups, mid-range jumpers, and free throws. Thornton can spread the floor for Taulava on offense. He also gives Coach Fernandez an option to guard multiple positions on defense.
But the Road Warriors may not be done re-tooling their roster. Right now, no trade is imminent and the team isn't looking at signing free agents. But Fernandez says he still hopes to "fill up other positions."
"We do need a reliever for Mac Cardona. He's our only penetrator. Siya lang yung (he was the only) productive two-guard last conference. We're looking for a back-up."
Cardona averaged 16.1 PPG and 5.9 RPG in the Philippine Cup. Other than Jonas Villanueva (10.2 PPG), no other NLEX guard averaged double figures scoring.
But the team hopes rookie Juneric Baloria, who put up 4.1 PPG in close to 8 minutes per game last conference, could develop into an effective back-up shooting guard.
"Hopefully, we can mold Juneric Baloria. He's been improving day-to-day. Hopefully we can make him more aggressive," Fernandez said about the former University of Perpetual Help star.
The Road Warriors holds their first practice of 2015 on Friday, January 2.
Fernandez said following his team's elimination in the quarterfinals of the Philippine Cup, he requested them to stay in shape by maintaining their playing weight and getting shots up at the gym.
"We had a meeting on the 22nd (of December), Monday. We discussed everything, we gave them programs for their weights," said Fernandez.
NLEX will be in Dubai from January 14-25 to participate in an unspecified international basketball tournament along with teams from other counties.
Thornton, who's scheduled to arrive in Manila on January 9, is expected to join the Road Warriors in their trip, which Coach Fernandez is calling their own "training camp" in preparation for the Commissioner's Cup that begins on January 27. – Rappler.com