Forget about NBA standout JaVale McGee suiting up for the Smart Gilas national team.
The Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas has decided to look for another foreign player to beef up the team, passing up the chance to put the 7-foot Denver Nuggets center in a Philippine uniform for the 2013 Fiba Asia Championship.
SBP president Manny V. Pangilinan said recently that signing up NBA players like McGee to play for the national team is “too expensive” and that the Smart Gilas search will now focus on players outside the NBA.
Marcus Douthit is the national team’s only naturalized player and the Providence alumnus and former Los Angeles Lakers draftee is not getting any younger at 32.
“NBA players are too expensive, so we’re looking at other prospects,” said Pangilinan, who earned a fresh mandate as basketball chief during the recent SBP national congress. “Douthit is OK but we should look for a younger one who could take his place. Not that Douthit isn’t capable, but we have to plan for the next four years as well.”
McGee thrilled Filipino basketball fans early this year when he played alongside NBA superstars Kobe Bryant of the Lakers, Derrick Rose of the Chicago Bulls and Kevin Durant of the Oklahoma City Thunder against the national team at Smart Araneta Coliseum.
After expressing his interest to play for the Philippine team, the 24-year-old McGee applied for naturalization.
Antipolo City Rep. Robbie Puno later filed House Bill 6169, or an Act Granting Philippine Citizenship to McGee, last May.
The Philippines is preparing for next year’s Fiba Asia Championship in Beirut in hopes of nailing one of three continental slots for the 2014 Fiba World Championship in Spain.
The national team has not played in the world championship since 1978, when Manila hosted the tournament and was granted a tournament berth as host country.
PBA players have been tasked to carry the fight for the country in the Asian championship but the team faces a scheduling hitch since Game 7 of the PBA Governors Cup Finals in July next year will end less than a week before the continental qualifier.
“We have a different sporting calendar,” said Pangilinan. “When they do tournaments, usually in the months of August and September, our players are still playing in collegiate leagues or in the PBA. Eventually, we should synchronize.”