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Blatche raring to play for Gilas

Andray Blatche

BROOKLYN – Andray Blatche said the other day he knows what the competition will be like for the Philippines at the FIBA World Cup in Spain on Aug. 30-Sept. 14 and no matter the odds, the 6-11 center promised to leave it all on the floor for Gilas.

“I’m excited,” said Blatche who’s averaging 11.2 points, 5.3 rebounds and 22 minutes for the Brooklyn Nets in the NBA this season. “I can’t wait to visit the Philippines. I’m looking forward to training camp. I can’t believe how many Filipinos have come up to me asking about the national team. I’ll do my best out there. I know Marcus (Douthit). I also know the guys we’ll be playing against like (Manu) Ginobili and (Luis) Scola of Argentina. I expect to be ready to play in Spain.”

Blatche, 27, said he was informed that the Gilas training camp would be in San Francisco. But because Blatche lives in Miami during the offseason, Gilas coach Chot Reyes said the plan is now for the team to train in the Florida City. Blatche will exercise his player option and become a free agent on June 30. That’s why he asked to stay in the US instead of joining the Gilas camp in Manila. He has been advised by his agent to be available in case negotiations will be finalized.

Nets manager of basketball operations Marivic Trajano Lardizabal, a Filipina, confirmed Blatche’s excitement to play for the Philippines. “I remember when he told me about signing the contract with the national team, that it’s for real,” she said. “I’m the only one of Filipino descent in the Nets organization and of course, I’m proud that our player will be playing for the Philippines in the World Cup. I wish I could go to Spain and cheer for him and our national team but I can’t be sure of my schedule. I take care of logistics of the entire team and that means arranging travel, accommodations and practice facilities. That covers the draft, summer league, summer camp, the preseason, the regular season and the playoffs. This October, we’ll be playing Sacramento in Shanghai and Beijing so we’ll be very busy.”

Lardizabal said Blatche even joked her that as he is soon to become a naturalized citizen, they’ll be related. After Manny Pacquiao beat Timothy Bradley to recapture the WBO welterweight crown in Las Vegas last weekend, Blatche called the Filipino champion “my cousin” in his twitter account. Blatche watched the fight live at the 40/40 Club in New York City with his brother Tre and best friend Bryan Extra.

Both Tre and Extra will join Blatche in Spain. “I’m the first one he talked to when he was invited to play for the Philippines,” said Extra. “We talk about it every day. We’re all excited about it. He really wants to visit the Philippines. He respects Marivic a lot so he’s got a real good impression on Filipinos. He’s got a lot of Filipino fans now. Maybe, he can go to the Philippines after Spain and before going to Korea for the Asian Games.”

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Reyes said he planned to meet Blatche when the Nets played the Cavaliers in Cleveland last night. “We were supposed to meet but our schedules wouldn’t match,” said Reyes. “We’ll see what their playoff schedule looks like then talk after the Cleveland game. The original plan was to set up camp in San Francisco but Andray prefers Miami so we’re making plans to train there. Miami is also closer to Spain.”

Blatche has posted five double-doubles so far this season with only six starts in 72 games. Last Tuesday, he came off the bench to compile eight points, four rebounds and one assist in 19:26 minutes as the Nets lost a home game to the New York Knicks, 109-98. Blatche went 2-of-4 from the field and 3-of-3 from the line. Coach Jason Kidd played Blatche at power forward alongside centers Kevin Garnett and Mason Plumlee. What was evident in the game was Blatche’s two-way orientation. Once, he took a charge and was an intimidator inside the lane.

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