THE PBA and national coach Chot Reyes will eventually come to terms on the players who will be available for the Fiba Asia squad this August and how the pro league will adjust its schedule so that it can fully support the tournament.
The country’s hosting of the tournament and the need for a fighting team that will finish on the podium and gain a slot in the Fiba World Championship will provide sufficient public demand for the pro league to participate as fully as it can.
Historically, the pro league was formed as a result of the founding owners’ desire to bolt the clutches of the Basketball Association of the Philippines back in the 1970s. The owners did not want their star players to be pulled out from tournament play arbitrarily when the trumpet blared out that it was time to serve flag and country in an international tournament.
The owners back then were not anti-national team or lacking in love for the country. It was more an issue of control and consultation than anything else. Being top-notch businessmen and captains of industry, they could not deal with not having much of a say in releasing a player to the national team while paying the player whatever they were paid back then before there was a pro league.
Forming the professional hoop league would disallow their paid players from participating in amateur tournaments.
It was also a time when the Philippines was the undisputed basketball power in the region. This was before China joined the athletic world and paraded its long and lean big men, and Asia did not include many of the Middle Eastern countries in its sports map.
The national team was a crowning achievement for a player back then because not all who tried out made the team. Forming the lineup was a big thing in the 1960s and 1970s and the announcement was always a front-page story with the mug shots of the players.
The basketball landscape has changed so much since those days. Professional basketball players can now play in Fiba tournaments.
The PBA has participated enthusiastically and sent teams to the Asian Games since 1990. It has supported the Smart Gilas program by providing players to beef up the full-time national players. The pro league has done its share with personnel and resources as well.
If the Philippines was not hosting the tournament, maybe the brouhaha and interest would not be as acute. Of course, the country would not like only to be a winner as a host but be a winner as well in its own backyard.
The PBA is not the type to back out from helping the country come up with a great showing in front of the basketball fans who patronize the pro league.
Winning the Asian championship will be a tough nut to crack, what with China, Lebanon, South Korea and Japan again providing very stiff competition. The most that is desired is a podium finish, to be one of the top three teams that will be given a chance to play in the world championships.
So if the PBA is extending a hand, maybe it should lend its snipers because it won’t be just a battle of behemoths jockeying for position under the basket.
The Philippine team will be needing big men who can shoot like Ranidel De Ocampo, guards with treys like Jimmy Alapag and LA Tenorio as well as shooting swingmen like Jeff Chan and Larry Fonacier. Defense will of course be critical in the tournament but to go toe to toe with Asia’s best in our own woods, we will need our best marksmen.
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