Freeman Cebu Sports

Bumpy road to Rio

FEEL THE GAME - Bobby Motus - The Freeman

The six-team Manila Olympic qualifier is halved into two groups of three teams. We are in Group B with France and New Zealand.  Group A has Turkey, Senegal and Canada.  Each bracket plays a single round-robin series.  The top two will meet their equals from the other bracket for a cross-over semifinal and the victors will then fight for the ticket to Rio.

We are in a 6-team field with an almost zero chance of resurrection.  France, the world’s fifth best basketball team and the team we wanted to avoid the most will be our opening nightmare on July 5 at the MOA Arena. This squad is loaded with NBA talent.World basketball’s number 28 going up against world’s number 3.

Consider Boris Diaw, Nicholas Batum, Evan Fournier, Rudy Gobert and Tony Parker.  They will start for the team and it will be total annihilation for the Gilas.  With only Parker standing below 6’5”, we are in for a block party.  Two more NBA players sit on the bench – Ian Mahinmi and JoffreyLauvergne.  France qualified for 8 Olympics, finishing 2nd twice.  The most we can do is not to let them bury us by more than 10 points.  Let’s give this game to the French.

We next go up against New Zealand, FIBA rank #21, the following day.  They’ve been to the 2000 Sydney Games and 2004 Athens Games.  A must-win game for the Gilas and I think we have a good chance of prevailing.  The team was once mentored by Coach Tab Baldwin and he should be familiar with their system.  Scouting reports say that they are dependent only on 4 guys – shooter Corey Webster and bigs Isaac Fotu, Thomas Abercrombie and Robert Loe.  We should and must exploit their weakness.

If we do prevail over New Zealand, we move on to the cross-over semis together with the French.  We could either meet Senegal, Turkey or Canada.  Whichever team we face is tough as they too have legit NBA players on their lineup.

Managed by Steve Nash, the Canadians finished third in the 2015 FIBA Americas and appeared in 9 Olympic Games.  Their world ranking at #26 is misleading as they are a strong team with NBA youngsters Andrew Wiggins, Kelly Olynyk, Tristan Thompson, Corey Joseph, Anthony Bennett, Dwight Powell and Robert Sacre.  It will really be hard to beat Canada.       

If  we do meet Turkey who had two Olympic campaigns, say hello to ErsanIlyasova and Omer Asik.  Both are mobile big men who are major contributors to their respective NBA teams.  Turkey has the speed, size and shooting to make the Philippines’ Rio campaign miserable.

Senegal is no pushover.  They appeared in 3 Olympics, the last time during the 1980 Moscow Games.  This is a tall unit with 5 players standing above 6’10”.  Playing center for the Minnesota Timberwolves, Gorgui Deng is Senegal’s anchor.

The qualifying games are still six months away and yet the Gilas are experiencing personnel problems.  With injuries to three key players, Baldwin needs to add people on the players’ pool.  Practice will also be a problem with the PBA Commissioner’s Cup starting on February 10.  Players on the Gilas pool can’t practice one day before and after a scheduled PBA game which results to only a handful of players during Gilas practices.

The PBA sked dictates when Gilas can practice.  Unless things get adjusted and the national team gets a full and complete practice session, even tons of luck won’t matter if preparations are wanting.


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