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PBA: No way but up for NLEX

Asi Taulava

Asi Taulava

NLEX team manager Ronald Dulatre does not feel sorry about their campaign in the ongoing Smart Bro PBA Philippine Cup where they were ousted by Talk ‘N Text during their playoff match last week.

But it does not mean the amiable executive is contented with the way they ended up this conference where their 7th place finish in some ways exceeded their expectations.

“We still achieved something na hindi ineexpect ng tao sa amin. Even our bosses, alam namin na nalampasan namin yung expectations,” said Dulatre.

The Road Warriors had an auspicious start when they won four of their first six games.

While they sputtered in their next five games where they tallied only one victory, Dulatre still feels at least two of those losses would have been victories if not for minor miscues.

“Ayokong mag-blame pero some of our losses, may mga instances na players na hindi nag-timeout and a few more mistakes that mattered,” said Dulatre.

“It’s a learning experience for us just like the way we treated our first year in the league. But next conference siguro tama na yung reason na ‘we’re still learning’,” said Dulatre.

For one, Dulatre is expecting more from his veteran players led by Asi Taulava and a seemingly rejuvenated Sean Anthony who’s having a career-best campaign with the squad.

“We have eight new players, a few of them mga rookies na nag-perform naman ng maganda. But our veterans should be more active hindi man sa salita but also with their leadership,” said Dulatre.

First round pick Glenn Khobuntin, Simon Enciso and Garvo Lanete are the three new players acquired by NLEX through the draft.

Among the three, Enciso made heads turn as he was able to share quality minutes with established guards Kevin Alas and Jonas Villanueva.

“Maganda nilaro ni Simon this conference so we’re expecting na mataas na ang confidence niya next conference,” said Dulatre. “With him sa point guard, may luxury na kami na ilagay si Jonas sa two-guard which is actually a position na mas comfortable siya.”

While Dulatre is happy with the production of Taulava and Anthony, he admits they have to give another veteran Mark Cardona some time to prove his worth.

Cardona played big, specifically on defense, in their 111-106 upset over the Rain or Shine or Shine Elasto Painters during their final elimination round assignment.

That win by NLEX prevented the E-Painters from gaining an outright semifinal stint this conference.

“He’s a plus factor pa din sa amin kasi yung experience niya is invaluable,” said Dulatre.

Meantime, Dulatre revealed they are already in talks with former import Al Thornton to be their American reinforcement next conference.

The 32-year-old Thornton led the Road Warriors to a franchise-best 5th place finish during last season’s Commissioner’s Cup.

NLEX actually finished fourth after the elimination round that conference but was surprisingly ousted by the Meralco Bolts, 2-0, during their quarterfinal faceoff.

“Al is our first option and he has shown his eagerness to return because he considers his first stint as an unfinished business,” said Dulatre.

Thornton battled a nagging knee injury which bothered him even before he played for NLEX.

The Florida State standout had a meaningful NBA career as he played for elite teams LA Clippers, Washington Wizards and the Golden State Warriors after being picked 14th overall by the Clippers in 2007. (Dennis G. Principe)