Basketball

Mike Cortez to Air 21, Yousef Taha to Ginebra trade sealed

AKTV/Paul Ryan Tan

Franz Pumaren will finally get the player on top of his wish list — veteran point guard Mike Cortez.

Barangy Ginebra San Miguel has closed a deal to send the ‘Cool Cat’ to the Air 21 Express, reuniting him with his former college coach, in return for promising rookie big man Yousef Taha.

An unimpeachable source privy to the discussions told InterAKTV that the deal is “already done.”

“Taha for Cortez will push through,” said the source, who requested anonymity. “It’s already done. We had another option, but it didn’t materialize, so we pushed through with this.”

Air 21 team executive Lito Alvarez also confirmed the deal, saying the papers will be submitted to the PBA on Wednesday.

Ginebra and Air 21 settled the one-on-one deal instead of an earlier proposed transaction that also involved Petron, which was supposedly to send Denok Miranda to Ginebra.

Instead, the Gin Kings will have another additional frontliner who can boost the team’s depleted lineup.

Ginebra lost forward Dylan Ababou to an ACL injury for six to eight months, while Allein Maliksi, Kerby Raymundo, and Jayjay Helterbrand have also been in sick bay.

Raymundo’s absence left Billy Mamaril as the only legitimate center in the team’s lineup.

Meanwhile, Cortez has long been on the radar of Pumaren, who coached the veteran guard in La Salle.

Pumaren couldn’t be reached for comment at this time, but the Air 21 coach has been very vocal about his desire to be reunited with his former star guard to help shore up the backcourt of the Express.

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