Why not Gilas in EASL?

SPORTING CHANCE - Joaquin M. Henson (The Philippine Star) - February 26, 2021 - 12:00am

If the PBA isn’t able to resolve a conflict in schedule issue with EASL, maybe an option to keep the Philippines in the eight-team, four-nation regional league is to enlist the Gilas pool split into two squads to battle the top guns from Japan, South Korea and Greater China. It’ll be a win-win situation since Gilas could surely gain from the exposure to high-level competition and EASL would lock in the Philippines’ critical participation in the five-month season from October to February.

The SBP would also be a beneficiary since EASL is allocating $1 million a season to the host organization for staging six home games, three for each Philippine team. The $1 million is guaranteed whether the host organization or EASL itself sets up the home contests. In fact, EASL is ready to deposit $100,000 of the $1 million as soon as the Philippines confirms its participation. With plans for Gilas to train overseas in the works, the allocation will surely go a long way in building up the national team’s war chest. Besides, there’s an appearance fee of $20,000 a game plus a bonus of another $20,000 for each win. And the champion team bankrolls a cool $1 million, the runner-up $500,000 and the third placer, $250,000. After two seasons, the prizes jump to $1.5 million for the champion, $750,000 for the runner-up and $375,000 for the third placer.

Since EASL is a FIBA affiliate, there is no danger of clashing schedules with FIBA qualifying windows or competitions. EASL will work around FIBA’s calendar to ensure national teams or players aren’t overlapped. EASL has a 10-year agreement with FIBA, extendable to another five. The chemistry between FIBA and EASL translates into a stronger relationship with SBP and both organizations.

The Gilas pool could easily be split into two teams. One team could be led by the five PBA special draft picks from 2019 – Isaac Go, Rey Suerte, Matt Nieto, Allyn Bulanadi, Mike Nieto) and the other by the four from this year’s draft – Jaydee Tungcab, Jordan Heading, Tzaddy Rangel, Will Navarro). The rest of the players could be assigned to either team – soon-to-be-naturalized import Ange Kouame, Dwight Ramos, Justine Baltazar, Juan and Javi Gomez de Liaño, Sean Ildefonso and Kemark Cariño. Other additions could be Kai Sotto, Thirdy Ravena, Kobe Paras and Ricci Rivero. Gilas project director Tab Baldwin could coach one team and Jong Uichico, the other. EASL is flexible with lineups and will declare Fil-foreigners with Philippine passports as locals, regardless of when they were issued.

The question is Gilas’ competitiveness. Will a split Gilas pool provide stiff opposition to the champion and runner-up clubs of Japan, South Korea and Greater China, each reinforced by two non-Asian imports? EASL’s mission is to provide high-quality basketball games within the region and FIBA will want nothing less from what looms to be the region’s growth engine for basketball. EASL is still hoping that when there is finally a clarity in the vaccine rollout, the PBA will come on board. EASL has said it will be the PBA’s choice to designate which two teams to play so the decision is the PBA’s to make. There is an existing PBA rule prohibiting teams or players to participate in another league while its season is ongoing and since EASL is scheduling its debut season in October, it will conflict with the Governors Cup. But EASL is reaching out and appealing for some kind of compromise arrangement, something that could be worked out between allied leagues with a common passion for the sport.

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