There was palpable excitement from TNT KaTropa fans in April when the team acquired Terrence Romeo. TNT acquired Romeo and Yousef Taha from the Batang Pier in exchange for Moala Tautuaa and a first round pick in 2020 and a second round pick in 2021.
The hope was the move would revitalize the once proud franchise. However, things did not go as planned. Eight months later, Romeo is headed to another squad. TNT shipped Romeo to the San Miguel Beermen in exchange for Brian Heruela, David Semerad, and the Beermen's first-round pick in 2021.
A combination of many things went wrong.
First, TNT might have traded the wrong piece in Tautuaa. In a league where big men are a rare commodity, letting go of a guy like Tautuaa is like punching a hole right in the middle of your squad. It forced TNT to have veteran Kelly Williams moonlighting as a center, especially in the Governors' Cup, which made it tough for them to go up against teams with legitimate big men.
Would the Batang Pier have accepted anything less than Tautuaa? Maybe not. But if you're TNT, you should have asked for someone like Bradwyn Guinto who could have been a decent replacement for Tautuaa instead of Taha who had barely seen minutes due to a combination of DNP-INJs and DNP-CDs.
The second reason was that TNT was a team in transition. After trading away some of the building blocks during their championship run in Ranidel De Ocampo and Larry Fonacier, the KaTropa were still trying to look for a new identity.
On the other hand, Romeo has proven that he can elevate his game with a good system and good players around him. He broke into the Asian scene under coach Tab Baldwin and continued playing well under coach Chot Reyes for the Gilas Pilipinas program where he was also teammates with guys like Jayson Castro, RR Pogoy, and Troy Rosario.
Integrating a talent like Romeo to a TNT team back in their championship years could have been an easier transition. Having veterans to talk to him and winning enough games to keep him trusting the system could have been exactly what Romeo needed.
However, the team he joined was far from its championship form. They failed to make it back to the Commissioner's Cup finals even with their old import Joshua Smith and then they had an even more frustrating stint in the Governors' Cup as they struggled to find the right import fit.
The losses kept piling up and the team was torn apart instead of banded together. They shook up their coaching staff, letting go of Nash Racela which was quickly followed by the departure of many long-time assistant coaches from the squad.
The team changed too much too soon and it ended up souring the relationship with Romeo.
Now, heading to SMB, Romeo might just get the squad he needs to finally get his first championship. With veterans like Chris Ross and Alex Cabagnot and with everyone knowing that June Mar Fajardo is the alpha, Romeo can slowly try to fit in without having the pressure of winning games because they can do it without him anyway.