Baldwin not gathering ‘best talent’ but assembling ‘best team’ for Gilas
Gilas Pilipinas head coach Tab Baldwin stays hopeful that June Mar Fajardo, LA Tenorio and Marc Pingris, three best players in the country today, would still be available for the national team in the 2015 Fiba Asia Championship next month.
But Baldwin made it clear that there won’t be any convincing on his part to change whatever decision Fajardo, Tenorio and Pingris will decide.
“They’re named in the pool so we’re hopeful that June Mar’s injury resolves itself in time and obviously, LA has got to resolve some issues within himself. If he (Tenorio) feels his form isn’t at this level right now then he has to think about that and he has to make a decision that he can come and he can help us out,” Baldwin said.
“And you know what I’m confident whatever LA decides. If he decides not to play then I think he’s making that decision at the best interest of Gilas and not just himself,” he added.
As it stands, the situation doesn’t look bright. Fajardo appeared to have already made up his mind to “skip Gilas duties for now” while Pingris remains doubtful due to personal matters and Tenorio had already begged off last week.
Baldwin is also not counting out Pingris, who is on official leave, just yet.
“It’s really gonna be a case of how far we are down the track when Marc is available which I believe is around the 12th and 13th. And if I feel we’ve assembled a pretty strong team at that point, we have the pieces in place then Marc will have to miss out,” said Baldwin. “But if I feel that there’s still a need for him and he can come in and make us a better team even that late then I’ll make that decision at that time.”
And with the high possibility of fighting for the lone Olympic bid in China sans those key players, Baldwin is already making the necessary adjustments with the pool right now.
“You adjust by just digging deeper in the pool and that’s what we’ve done and we brought players in here that we believe can compete internationally,” Baldwin told reporters. “It’s irrelevant whether they’re our first choice or not, they are our now choice and we’re very proud of them and we’re very happy that we’re here and I have a lot of belief in these guys.”
Baldwin’s “now choice” team turned out to be an interesting one with a mix of veterans like Asi Taulava and Dondon Hontiveros and young rising stars in Terrence Romeo, Calvin Abueva and Troy Rosario to name a few.
And for Baldwin, who has vast experience coaching in international competition, it’s not just about forming a team with the most talented players, it’s about creating the best team.
“I’m never the kind of coach that tries to assemble the best talent, I wanna assemble the best team. Sometimes the best talent doesn’t make the best team,” he said. “I didn’t want to exclude anybody from that process but I still feel we can assemble a fine basketball team.”
Baldwin said he fully understands and respects the decision of the players to not join Gilas at this point in time.
“I’ve spoken to LA. He told me his decision, he told me why and I respect that. He’s gotta go away, he’s a professional basketball player and he’s a grown man. He doesn’t need me barking in his ear every five minutes trying to convince him to do something that he may not think is what’s in his or the team’s best interest. That’s why I said I trust and respect the man so we will live with the decision he makes.
“Will I like to have him? I love him. But we’ll live with the decision he makes.”
The same goes with the situation that the reigning two-time MVP is in.
“June Mar it’s an injury. If he can play, I’m sure June Mar will be here. If his feet are bothering him to the degree I know plantar fascia can cause problems then he’s not going to help us out. Again, that injury has to resolve itself favorably for him to be able to come here and help us out.”
Naturalized big man Andray Blatche has already taken part in a couple of practice days with Gilas. When the former NBA veteran first met with the newly-formed Gilas pool on Monday night when the team made its first official training, Blatche couldn’t help but look for the players he’d gotten to know when he represented the Philippines in the Fiba World Cup in Spain last year.
“Yeah I heard a lot when I got here. And I was looking for June Mar, Paul Lee, LA, I haven’t seen him yet and also Ping. My prayers are out to them whatever their situation is. But we gotta focus on the guys that are here right now,” Blatche said.
“Will I like them back? Yes. I played with them before. But whatever their situation is and we can’t have them here and my prayers go out to them, they’re family. We need other guys to step up.” CFC