Overweight Blatche back to boost Gilas Olympic bid
Andray Blatche, back to reinforce the Philippine campaign in the Fiba-Asia Championship in September, showed up for practice on Monday night way out of shape.
Several pounds heavier and with what looked like a beer belly, the 6-foot-11 Blatche still worked hard as Gilas Pilipinas coach Tab Baldwin held the first official practice of the 16 players cleared hours earlier by the PBA for the candidates’ pool.
But Baldwin didn’t pay much attention to Blatche’s belly and the practice jersey that was a tad too tight. He said he was happy just seeing the naturalized player come and work.
“When I see a guy who walks through the door and he has to duck, I’m happy just seeing a guy like that,” said Baldwin, who is willing to give the former NBA standout a chance to get in shape.
“It’s very early for him,” Baldwin said. “He’s moving OK, but he’s going to have to lose weight. He’s big right now. It’s going to take him a little while to shake off jet lag and a long off-season.”
The new national coach said Blatche’s last competitive game was “last February” yet.
The former Brooklyn Nets forward-center played for the Xinjian Flying Tigers in the Chinese Basketball Association after seeing action for Gilas Pilipinas in the Fiba World Cup, where the Filipinos wound up 21st of 24 countries.
Blatche will be allowed to take it easy for the rest of the week, before Baldwin drives him hard for the Fiba Asia Championship, slated Sept. 22 to Oct. 3, in Changsha City in China’s Hunan province.
“We’ll get him to medical testing,” said Baldwin. “We want to make sure that we don’t put him at risk before he’s ready to go. By next week, we expect him to be going with our pace.”