Despite Bo Perasol's public appeal to keep his team intact, the Powerade Tigers pushed through with their trade with Petron, sending Marcio Lassiter and Celino Cruz to the Blaze Boosters in exchange for center Rabeh Al-Hussaini, guard Rey Guevarra and veteran shooter Lordy Tugade.
It was a revision of a previous trade proposal that was ultimately rejected by PBA Commissioner Chito Salud which would have exchanged Lassiter for Nonoy Baclao and Guevarra. This time, Petron threw in Tugade and replaced Baclao, the 2010 no. 1 who has warmed the bench for most of the season, with the six-foot-seven Al-Hussaini, the no. 2 pick in the same draft who has been injured and seen limited action.
The PBA approved this revised Powerade-Petron deal yesterday, paving the way for Lassiter to join his former Smart Gilas teammate Chris Lutz in an intriguing small forward rotation. Perasol had publicly opposed any attempt to break up his nucleus of Lassiter, Gary David and JV Casio, the trio that carried the Tigers to an unlikely Philippine Cup finals appearance, although he said if management really wanted to trade Lassiter, he preferred to get Jay Washington and Joseph Yeo in return.
In the ongoing Commissioner's Cup, the Tigers dropped their last three games to bow out of contention for a quarterfinal slot. They were actually just five minutes away from clinching a quarters berth but they blew a 16-point lead to Alaska and fell in overtime.
Lassiter, the no. 4 pick in last year's draft, is a big loss for Powerade since he is such a force on both offense and defense and seems to have meshed well with the high-scoring David. He was also a key component in the Tigers' perimeter defense, leading his team in steals with 1.3 per game. He also averaged 17.7 points, 5.9 rebounds and 3.6 assists.
When healthy, Al-Hussaini is good post player with a reliable medium-range shot. He missed the entire Philippine Cup while recuperating from a knee injury, and although he returned to action this conference , has played in only four games and averaged only 1.8 points.
Guevarra, picked third after Baclao and Al-Hussaini, has struggled to find his place in Ato Agustin's rotation, and would probably have had more trouble getting minutes after Petron brought in Chico Lanete and RJ Rizada. But he was good enough to average five points a game whenever he was used . Tugade averaged less than three points a game as he approaches the tail-end of a long career.
Cruz served as back-up to Casio, but Powerade's surplus of players at the point guard position — they also have Rudy Lingganay and James Martinez — made the 10-year veteran expendable.
Although Powerade's coaching staff was averse to letting Lassiter go, they might find a lot of use for a healthy Al-Hussaini. Their frontline rotation could use another warm body, especially one of Al-Hussaini's height and skill level, after losing back-up center Alex Crisano for the rest of the season due to a torn Achilles' tendon.
Guevarra is clearly no Lassiter, but can provide some scoring, especially in the open court, while Tugade theoretically could give some much-needed bench scoring for the Tigers, who had no reserve player averaging more than three points a game.
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