Blatche makes waves in China
Joaquin M. Henson (The Philippine Star) - November 10, 2014 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - Earning a guaranteed $8.47 Million salary without playing in the NBA this season, Gilas forward/center Andray Blatche is now spearheading the unbeaten Xinjiang Flying Tigers in the Chinese Basketball Association and the 6-11 star continues to impress with averages of 27.3 points and 13.7 rebounds.

Blatche, 28, hasn’t skipped a beat since his award as the most efficient player at the recent FIBA World Cup in Spain. He ranked second in scoring with a 21.2 clip and first in rebounding with a 13.8 norm during the World Cup where the Philippines placed 21st of 24 countries. Gilas returned to the World Cup after a 36-year absence and won its first game in the FIBA event since 1974 at Senegal’s expense. The performance elevated the Philippines’ ranking in FIBA from No. 34 to No. 31. Only four Asian countries are listed higher with No. 14 China, No. 17 Iran, No. 27 South Korea and No. 28 Jordan.

Blatche made a scorching debut with Xinjiang as he compiled 31 points and 14 boards to lead the Flying Tigers to a 109-101 win over Sichuan last Nov. 2. Then, he had 28 points and 13 rebounds in Xinjiang’s 121-116 decision over Chongqing and 23 points and 14 rebounds in the Flying Tigers’ 119-101 romp over Shanxi. Blatche is hitting 64 percent from two-point distance and 80 percent from the line while averaging 35.7 minutes. He’s also dishing out 2.3 assists an outing. His Xinjiang import partner is NBA veteran Jordan Crawford who has played for Atlanta, Washington, Boston and Golden State.

Among the NBA veterans in the Chinese league this season are Delonte West of Shanghai, Stephon Marbury of Beijing, Metta World Peace of Sichuan, Al Harrington of Fujian, Bobby Brown of DongGuan and Toney Douglas of Jiangsu. The former PBA imports in the league are Denzel Bowles of Jilin, Donnell Harvey of Shundong, Will McDonald of Jiangsu and Jarrid Famous of Jiangsu. Also playing as imports in China are Iran’s Hamed Haddadi, Mahdi Kamrani and Arsalan Kazemi and Jordan’s Zaid Abbas.

Blatche signed a $35.7 Million five-year deal with Washington in 2010 but was placed on amnesty waivers two years later. He then played two seasons with the Brooklyn Nets. The Wizards still owe Blatche $8.47 Million this season, the final year of his guaranteed contract. After playing for the Philippines in Spain, Blatche entertained offers from at least three NBA teams but didn’t come to terms. Instead, he inked a $2.5 Million one-year deal with Xinjiang. The expectation is Blatche will try to land an NBA contract when the Chinese league ends in March and still make it to the NBA playoffs. NBA veteran Kenyon Martin took that route in 2011-12, signing with Xinjiang then moving to the Los Angeles Clippers late in the NBA season.   

In August next year, Blatche will likely return to play for Gilas at the FIBA Asia Championships, the qualifier for the 2016 Rio de Janiero Olympics, in China. Only the FIBA Asia champion will represent Asia in the 12-team Olympic basketball tournament. Gilas’ other naturalized player Marcus Douthit was recently signed to a one-year renewal by the SBP. It is rumored that a PBA expansion franchise has inquired about his availability to play as an import in the Commissioner’s and Governors Cups this season. Under league rules, the last four placers in the Philippine Cup will be allowed to recruit an import of unlimited height for the Commissioner’s Cup and the last four placers of the Philippine and Commissioner’s Cups on a consolidated basis will be given the same privilege for the Governors Cup.

Xinjiang is one of five unbeaten contenders in the 20-team Chinese league that opened its new season two weeks ago. The Flying Tigers are coached by 64-year-old Greek Mihalis Kiritsis who once piloted Panathinaikos Athens to the Greek league title.

Over in the NBA, former Ginebra import Donald Sloan is averaging a career-high 15.5 points in six games so far with Indiana as the Pacers’ starting point guard. He’s also norming 5.2 rebounds, 6.2 assists and 35.5 minutes in place of injured starter George Hill. In a recent game, Sloan erupted for 31 points on 10-of-21 field goals, including four triples, as Indiana lost a 96-94 overtime decision to Washington. Sloan also collected six rebounds and seven assists in the setback.

Only two other former PBA imports are playing in the NBA this season. Brooklyn’s Jerome Jordan is averaging 2.0 points, 2.0 rebounds and 6.6 minutes in five games while Philadelphia’s Henry Sims is averaging 7.8 points, 6.0 rebounds and 23.3 minutes in six games, including four starts.

Sloan, 26, was undrafted out of Texas A&M and played seven games for Ginebra in the 2010-11 Governors Cup, averaging 22.6 points, 8.9 rebounds and 5.3 assists. He led Ginebra to a 4-3 record. His single-game high was 32 points in a 98-90 win over Rain Or Shine. Sloan was brought in as a replacement for Ginebra’s original import Curtis Stinson. Among Sloan’s Ginebra teammates were Mark Caguioa, Jay-Jay Helterbrand, Mike Cortez, J. C. Intal, Willie and John Wilson, Eric Menk, Nino Canaleta, Billy Mamaril, Yancy de Ocampo and Ronald Tubid.

Jordan, 28, played six games for Talk ‘N’ Text in the 2012-13 Commissioner’s Cup, replacing Donnell Harvey. He was then replaced by Tony Mitchell. Jordan averaged 16.3 points and 10.3 rebounds with the Texters. Sims, 24, played six games for Petron in the 2012-13 Commissioner’s Cup, averaging 22.8 points and 15.2 rebounds. Petron was 2-4 with Sims in the lineup. Sims and Jordan faced off in the quarterfinals with Talk ‘N’ Text beating Petron twice, 100-93 and 96-86.

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