Gilas had got nothing to hide or give
THE DEFEAT was hard to take, especially after what had been glowingly said about the Gilas Pilipinas team’s secluded build-up camp that closed in Cebu on Sunday.
The fall of the national basketball squad against Fiba Asia tournament first-timer Palestine was not a simple shocker.
It was an all-revealing setback that has made fans and experts alike wonder what exactly took place behind closed doors during the well-publicized seclusion.
There was dismay, if not outright disenchantment.
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For example, what gave Gilas coach Tab Baldwin the gall to state after the mysterious cramming sessions that they would next be out to take control and be dominant in the continental Olympic qualifying tournament that started in Changsha, China, yesterday.
For the record, Baldwin had himself openly admitted that his team was not yet ready for the Olympic qualifying test by the end of the four-team MVP Cup at the Smart Araneta Coliseum on Sept 13.
In fact, in the national team’s match against the Wellington Saints on Sept. 12, Gilas was a distressed outfit. It was being outjumped, outhustled, outshot for over three quarters, until peppery Terrence Romeo scored four unplanned three-point baskets at crunch time.
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Gilas’ naturalized center Andray Blatche, by the way, was anomalously overweight during the MVP Cup, a sorry state of health that led certain pundits to comment the NBA veteran appeared as though he was on the family way.
However everybody, from the team’s chief patron and supporter Manny V. Pangilinan, down to school and street kids who thrilled to the Gilas team victories in the MVP Cup, went with Baldwin once he emerged with his team from the Cebu camp and declared they won’t let the country down.
Now, it’s time to ask: What did Baldwin lend to or inflict on his team, listed as oldest outfit in the China tournament, that had led him to allege the national squad had instantly become super fit?
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Meanwhile, great expectations would be further fueled with the announcement by Baldwin that Blatche, who did great sacrifices by training doubly hard and going on a soup-and-vegetable diet in Cebu, would be ready to lead the Gilas national team in the Fiba Asia war.
With the reported return to great form by Blatche, there were even suggestions the celebrated Gilas reinforcement should take care not to flash his full worth in the preliminary round of the Fiba Asia tournament. He must take care not to show all his skills and strength.
It was indeed a thrill how Blatche, handsome and trim, soared, scored and dominated in the first quarter of the game against a Palestine team, which showed up with a limited bench.
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A magnificent first quarter which saw coach Baldwin gleefully rotating his men gave Gilas an early 16-point lead.
It was starting to appear very much like a mere tune-up.
But Palestine held on gallantly. The Fiba league first-timer refused to be rushed. It tried to stand its ground. It countered quietly, while a fast-tiring Gilas outfit, that was supposed to hold its punches, faltered and failed even as it gave its huffing-puffing best in the clutches.
Sorry, but in that fall against Palestine, Gilas, soft and shallow, had got nothing real to hide or give.
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