NLEX veteran Asi Taulava took part in Gilas Pilipinas practice Monday at the Meralco gym. The national team is eight players short. Ginebra's Japeth Aguilar and Stanley Pringle, San Miguel's June Mar Fajardo and Christian Standhardinger, TNT's Roger Pogoy and Troy Rosario, and Rain or Shine's Gabe Norwood and Beau Belga are playing in the PBA Commissioner's Cup semifinals.
"After the group we had in the Asian Games, it's great to get back here and help coach Yeng (Guiao). Lots of bodies in the playoffs right now. So they needed a couple of people and he invited a couple of us from NLEX to come in and help," Taulava said after practice.
Taulava joined Magnolia's Paul Lee and Mark Barroca, Raymond Almazan of Meralco, NLEX's Poy Erram and Kiefer Ravena, Columbian rookie CJ Perez, and Phoenix wingman Matthew Wright and naturalized player Andray Blatche.
Meanwhile, Guiao said there is still some hope that the Cleveland Cavaliers' Jordan Clarkson could join Gilas as a local.
"There's been effort, a backdoor effort to try to get Clarkson to play, but of course, the probability and chances are still low," Guiao said.
Guiao said he's happy Clarkson remains enthusiastic about joining Gilas. FIBA currently considers the Fil-American NBA guard a naturalized player, a position currently occupied by Andray Blatche.
The Samahang Basketball ng Pilipinas still has a pending appeal on Clarkson's status before FIBA.
"At least we always have been appreciative of his desire and his determination to keep on getting himself ready," Guiao said. "So if he himself isn't losing hope in his situation, the more we shouldn't lose hope as well because that's the reason why we put him in the Gilas pool."
With the World Cup just a month away, time is running out.
The 27-year-old Clarkson averaged 26 points, 6.5 rebounds and 5.5 assists in the 2018 Asian Games, where he suited up for Gilas for the first time after being given a special "one-time exemption" by the NBA. Clarkson helped the national squad place fifth in the Asiad.
Guiao said he's happy with Blatche's work since arriving in in Manila two weeks ago.
"He's working hard and has been practicing twice a day," Guiao said.
Blatche also joins NLEX's morning practice.
Taulava has suited up for the national team several times since the 2002 Asian Games in South Korea. He sounded unconcerned about the short roster.
"No need to panic. They got players and they got stars like Paul Lee, a mixture of youth and the veterans, and then you got June Mar (Fajardo). You got all the younger guys and they have played in so many FIBA windows so the preparation has been there," Taulava said.
Guiao said NorthPort rookie guard Robert Bolick didn't make the Monday night practice but is expected to rejoin the national squad by Tuesday.
"What we try to do is just to maximize the presence of the guys here but we're really limited by the focus of almost half the team on their semifinal series," Guiao said.
San Miguel has a 2-0 series lead on Rain or Shine and TNT leads 2-0 against Barangay Ginebra.
TNT faces Ginebra on Tuesday and SMB next plays Rain or Shine on Wednesday.