AS THE big boss in an elegant suit behind the bench, former NBA great Yao Ming doesn’t want to see half-hearted play on the floor.
So don’t expect his Shanghai Sharks to go easy on Gilas-Pilipinas in their “friendly” encounter tonight at Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay.
“We fully respect our opponent by preparing for this,” said Yao through an interpreter. “We need games like these to build the future of the team.”
National coach Chot Reyes has lined up a towering frontline for the Gilas five to counter the Sharks’ awesome presence in the paint led by 7-foot-3 Zhang Zhaoxu, 6-11 Zheng Yali, 6-10 Wu Yang and 6-9 Wang Yong.
Seven-footer Greg Slaughter, 6-11 Junmar Fajardo, 6-10 naturalized center Marcus Douthit and 6-9 Japeth Aguilar have been assigned to neutralize Shanghai’s height advantage.
“We watched some of the (Gilas) games and I’m expecting them to play with a full lineup tomorrow (today),” said Sharks coach Wang Chun.
Preparing for the Fiba Asia Championship here in August, the Nationals will also be bannered by PBA stars Gabe Norwood, Jeff Chan and Gary David. Reyes will fill up the roster with cadet team members in the 7:30 p.m friendly organized by the Philippine Sports Commission.
Amateur dribblers Kevin Alas, Garvo Lanete, Matt Ganuelas, Jake Pascual and Ronald Pascual will also play against the Chinese Basketball League club owned by Yao.
Also suiting up for the Sharks is guard Liu Wei, the team captain of the Chinese national squad. Zhang played for China alongside Liu in the 2008 Beijing and 2012 London Olympics.
Gilas is aiming for at least a third-place finish in the coming Asian championship to qualify for the 2014 Fiba World Championship in Spain.
Yao, the 2002 NBA top pick by the Houston Rockets who retired in 2011 due to a nagging foot injury, said Gilas should be ready to play efficient ball against defending Fiba Asia champion China and other tough teams in the continent.
Iran, Jordan, South Korea, Japan, Qatar and Lebanon are also bidding to clinch the three available spots for the Worlds.
“We all love to see the improvement of the sport in Asia,” said Yao, who put China and the rest of Asia on the NBA map. “That’s the only way we can evolve and increase the level of play in the region.”
The 7-foot-6 Yao played for the Sharks from 1997-2002 and gave the CBL franchise its first championship on his last year before applying for the NBA Draft.
Now a team owner, the eight-time NBA All-Star and Fiba Asia Championship MVP from 2001-2005 sees satisfaction in his job and won’t pick up his sneakers anytime soon.
“My injury won’t allow me to do that. And in this team, there’s no jersey for me anymore,” said Yao with an honest grin.