Gilas, Blatche to train in Miami
Gilas Pilipinas departs for Miami, Florida, today for an intense two-week training as it prepares for the Fiba World Cup in Spain starting Aug. 28.
Team members, all PBA multimillionaires, will be away from their families until after the World Cup in early September.
From the United States, the national team flies to France to play in pocket tournaments before proceeding to Spain early for the World Cup, where the Filipinos are bracketed in Group B together with powerhouse Argentina, Croatia, Puerto Rico, Greece and Senegal.
The team’s departure comes on the heels of the horrific “Last Home Stand,” its ill-fated showdown with a selection of young NBA stars led by former Rookie of the Year Damian Lillard of the Portland Trailblazers and Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard of NBA champion San Antonio Spurs.
Gilas will be leaving without Larry Fonacier, a vital cog in the Filipinos’ silver-medal finish in the Fiba Asia qualifying event in Manila last August.
Fonacier, a former PBA Rookie of the Year and one of the squad’s top gunners, begged off the other day, citing an assortment of injuries.
Coach Chot Reyes accepted Fonacier’s request with a heavy heart.
Gilas, however, is expected to welcome Andray Blatche, the Brooklyn Nets center, once the team gets its training session going in the US.
Blatche is the new naturalized player for the Philippines and is eligible—under Fiba rules— to take over from Marcus Douthit in Spain.
The Filipinos’ World Cup stint also serves as the final stage of their preparations for the Asian Games in Incheon, South Korea. The Philippines will try to reclaim Asian supremacy less two weeks after its Spanish joust.
Continental powerhouses Iran, South Korea and China loom as the chief obstacles to the Filipinos’ Asiad campaign.
China, which the Philippines defeated in the bronze-medal match of the Fiba Asia Cup in Wuhan two weeks ago, did not send its A-Team to the event, which Iran won for the second straight time despite a lineup that didn’t have superstar swingman Nikka Bahrami and prolific point guard Mahdi Kamrahni.
Korea did not play in Wuhan, with reports saying the Asiad host didn’t want to reveal anything to the opposition for the continental tournament.