FIBA cancels Indonesia game

SPORTING CHANCE - Joaquin M. Henson (The Philippine Star) - November 25, 2020 - 12:00am

A plan to pit Gilas against Indonesia in the second FIBA Asia Cup qualifying window was recently ditched after the SBP raised a red flag to question the propriety of advancing the game from its original schedule in February next year. Apparently, the idea was hatched to give Indonesia another game because otherwise, the team would fly all the way from Jakarta to Bahrain for just one outing against Thailand.

The Philippines would’ve played South Korea in Bahrain on Saturday but the game was cancelled because the South Korean federation opted not to travel due to the pandemic. There was no government restriction so the South Korean withdrawal was strictly a voluntary federation decision. Under normal circumstances, a no-show is ground for a loss by default. Referees and officials would report for the game then the team in attendance must score a basket to formalize the win by forfeit. Whether FIBA will award the Philippines a win over Korea by default is a question mark. It will be decided after the second window and before the third.

In Bahrain, Gilas will play Thailand twice, on Friday and Monday. The Friday game is a make-up for the postponed contest last February. In the third window, the Philippines is scheduled to battle Indonesia on Feb. 18 and South Korea on Feb. 21.  If FIBA decides not to award the Philippines a win over South Korea by default, the make-up will be played in the third window. So it’s possible that the Philippines will face South Korea twice in the third window. Incidentally, SBP has offered to host the third window in the Clark bubble and if FIBA agrees, it may involve staging games in two groups involving eight teams.

Indonesia is in Bahrain with a full cast led by import Lester Prosper and Indonesian-American Brandon Jawato who has been given the green light to play as a local. Coach Rajko Toroman’s squad would’ve been more than a handful for Gilas without a single PBA player if FIBA hadn’t scratched the game in Bahrain. When they clash in the third window, Gilas will be a mix of PBA and collegiate standouts.

Unlike in the Olympics, teams may adjust lineups 24 hours before tip-off of every game in Bahrain, according to SBP special assistant to the president Ryan Gregorio. This has been the practice in the FIBA home-and-away qualifiers. “Coaches will have elbow room to tweak the final 12,” he said. In Bahrain, Gilas project director Tab Baldwin and head coach Joseph Uichico brought 15 players, including injured Allyn Bulanadi. So they’ll have 14 warm bodies to rotate in a 12-man roster for each game against Thailand. In the Olympics, teams submit their 12-man rosters in the managers’ meeting the day before the tournament begins and no changes may be made for the duration of the competition.

Uichico described Thailand as “a cohesive unit” with chemistry and familiarity. Six of the Thai players were on the squad that the Philippines crushed, 115-81, in the final of the SEA Games last December. Seven of the 12 Thais in the lineup play for the same club Hi-Tech Bangkok City in the domestic league. In the first window, Thailand put up a strong fight in losing a 93-86 decision to South Korea in Seoul last February. But Thailand’s main man Tyler Lamb, who shot 33 points in the SEA Games final and 28 against South Korea in the first window, won’t suit up in Bahrain. The Thais will be led by 6-6 Chanatip Jakrawan, 6-foot Wattana Suttisin, 6-3 Nakorn Jaisanuk, 6-7 Sukhdave Ghogar, 5-11 Nattakorn Muangboon and 6-6 Anucha Langsui. Uichico said Gilas is made up of “willing and hard workers,” adding that he’ll keep things simple in laying out uncomplicated plays.

The Gilas delegation arrived in Bahrain late Sunday evening after a 10-hour flight. Everyone underwent a swab test and quarantined in the hotel until the results came out negative. SBP president Al Panlilio said, “Am proud of these young men who have committed to represent the country…we have the passion of youth and players thinking team first ... very inspiring…our challenge is experience as we play against battle-tested veterans.”

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