Call for unity

SPORTING CHANCE - Joaquin M. Henson - The Philippine Star

JAKARTA – SBP president Al Panlilio will make an appeal for all basketball stakeholders to sacrifice and tweak league schedules with Gilas in mind in preparation for the 2023 FIBA World Cup during an SBP general assembly meeting on Aug. 1. It’s evident that without the support of the stakeholders across the board, Gilas won’t be able to hold a candle to the opposition in the 32-nation conclave on Aug. 25-Sept. 10 next year.

Panlilio said the goal is for Gilas to be competitive in the World Cup. Judging from Gilas’ performance at the FIBA Asia Cup here, showing up to compete with limited practice time won’t cut it. The team had only a week of training together before playing its first game against Lebanon. Poy Erram, the only active PBA player on the roster, practiced only thrice. Not even NBA players can create chemistry in a snap if they come from different teams. At the 2002 FIBA World Cup in Indianapolis, the US finished sixth despite a lineup boasting of NBA players Paul Pierce, Reggie Miller, Ben Wallace, Elton Brand, Mike Finley, Baron Davis, Jermaine O’Neal, Shawn Marion and Andre Miller.

PBA chairman Ricky Vargas said the time to act is now. “The World Cup will never happen again in Manila in our lifetime,” he said. “It took 45 years to bring the World Cup back to Manila. Dapat laban na, all out. We need the best to play and be allowed to play. We call on all stakeholders to unite for flag and country.”

The problem is systemic. At the FIBA Asia Cup, leagues in every country except the Philippines went on full stop. Even Gilas coach Chot Reyes was conflicted because he’s also the TNT coach. The PBA adjusted TNT’s schedule in the Philippine Cup to free Reyes to leave for the FIBA Asia Cup a few days before the start of the competition.

There are three FIBA World Cup Asia qualifying windows in August, November and February with marching orders for Gilas to win more games from SBP chairman emeritus Manny V. Pangilinan. In August, Utah Jazz guard Jordan Clarkson will join Gilas for 10 days to include the outings in Beirut and the MOA Arena. Panlilio said SBP is reaching out to Kai Sotto to also play. Since the PBA Philippine Cup finals will begin tentatively on Aug. 21, it means players from 10 eliminated teams may be drafted for Gilas. If San Miguel Beer and TNT make it to the finals, players like Scottie Thompson, Japeth Aguilar, Jamie Malonzo, Abu Tratter, Santi Santillan and Robert Bolick will be available. If TNT qualifies for the finals, will Gilas be without Reyes?

The hardest problem is in the fifth window in November because the NBA, PBA, UAAP and NCAA will be in season. Who will coach Gilas and who can play for the national team? The sixth window in February will bring in UAAP and NCAA players but not from the PBA. FIBA said it will assist in clearing players from foreign leagues. SBP will seek the players’ release 30 days before a tournament or window begins and FIBA will take care of clearance. But in this instance, players will be released only a week or two weeks before a competition. The PBA will play two conferences next year to make way for the World Cup and will stop action in May to allow Gilas pros three months to train. Unless, the basketball stakeholders are on the same page, it will be a challenge to form the strongest lineup possible for Gilas.


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