When will FIBA windows reopen?
SPORTING CHANCE - Joaquin M. Henson (The Philippine Star) - September 22, 2020 - 12:00am

FIBA recently announced that the Continental Cup qualifiers scheduled this November and February next year will be held in a bubble but there were no details as to the site or dates of the windows. In the FIBA Asia situation, the Philippines is bracketed with South Korea, Thailand and Indonesia with the top two finishers advancing to the 16-team Continental Cup on Aug. 17-29 next year. The Continental Cup is a stand-alone zonal competition and isn’t a qualifier for either the Olympics or World Cup.

So far, the Philippines has played only one game in the qualifiers, beating Indonesia, 100-70, in Jakarta last Feb. 23. The Philippine team was coached by Mark Dickel and made up of Kiefer and Thirdy Ravena, Juan Gomez de Liaño, Abu Tratter, Poy Erram, Justin Chua, Isaac Go, Matt Nieto, R. R. Pogoy, C. J. Perez, Troy Rosario and Dwight Ramos. Gilas would’ve hosted Thailand last Feb. 20 but the contest was postponed because of pandemic concerns with no reset date. The Philippines is up next against South Korea on the road Nov. 27 then Thailand on the road Nov. 30, Indonesia at home on Feb. 18 and South Korea at home on Feb. 21.

If the November window pushes through, the schedule will be in direct conflict with the PBA season restart in the Clark bubble. There are 65 games left in the PBA eliminations so if the restart begins Oct. 9 with daily doubleheaders, four teams will be struck out of contention after 33 days. It’s possible that players from the eliminated teams may be picked for Gilas in time to train for the FIBA bubble if scheduled late in November. But the probability is Gilas’ nucleus will be composed of the top five picks of the PBA draft last year seconded to the national pool, namely Go, Rey Suerte, Matt and Mike Nieto and Allyn Bulanadi. Thirdy, Gomez de Liaño, Ricci Rivero and Kobe Paras may also be recruited. Since both the UAAP and NCAA are suspended, their players could be called for Gilas duty.

Who will coach Gilas? Dickel will be with TNT in the PBA bubble so he won’t be available. SBP president Al Panlilio is set to discuss Gilas issues with coach Tab Baldwin this week but unless FIBA comes out with definite details regarding the November and February windows, it will be difficult to prepare for the qualifiers. FIBA said there will be no more home-and-away games as the plan is to cluster four to eight teams in one or two classification groups in a bubble to play out the schedule. Which country will host the bubble? What about travel arrangements to the host country? Are there restrictions? What protocols are necessary and how long will players be quarantined without practice upon landing in the host country? So many unanswered questions put a question mark on the viability of a FIBA bubble in November.

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