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Wild Card

PBA deflects flak

(We welcome back Ernie A. Gonzales, sportswriter and editor par excellence and, until recently, this paper’s Sports desk consultant. We toast his erudite commentaries and veteran smarts in behind-the-scenes sports as he writes a weekly column for us. —Ed.)

It’s new ball game for this longtime sports chronicler. After pounding the newspaper’s liveliest beat for nearly two decades and then moving up to the Sports desk, Wild Card now enters the realm of game analyses and critiques while exploring issues behind the events and sporting action.

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We thought we wouldn’t find out why the Philippine Basketball Association failed to wield its power and influence in helping Gilas Pilipinas assemble the league’s best talents for the recent Fiba Asia Championship in China recently.

With the PBA’s half-hearted effort to put up a strong lineup of team candidates, the Gilas five that eventually went to battle enjoyed little chance of contending for the title and nail an outright slot in the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics.

It was not only bad that five mainstays from the last Gilas team begged off from rejoining their old buddies due to various excuses. A glaring issue was the failure of San Miguel Beer, the most dominant club with two of three championships last season, to contribute a single star to the national cause.

The three teams under the San Miguel Corp. umbrella had actually looked set to completely ignore the Fiba Asia campaign until Star Hotshot veteran and Gilas pillar Marc Pingris defied what many PBA insiders said was a “no-show order” by team officials.

But the hastily formed, star-starved Gilas, led by naturalized Filipino Andray Blatche and coached by American Tab Baldwin, confounded experts by climbing back from an opening-game setback to reach the finals against host China.

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Even before the title showdown, the PBA bared plans to fully support the next Gilas campaign. The unexpected turnaround—after its virtual snub of the national five—effectively deflected the flak many felt the pro league deserved after the lack of vital reinforcements told on Gilas in the championship clash.

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And to make sure the national basketball federation under tycoon Manny V. Pangilinan stays upbeat in fielding another Gilas team in next year’s Olympic wild-card competition among the runners-up and third placers in the continental tournaments, the PBA promised to readjust its 2015-16 schedule and approve coach Baldwin’s new wish list for the national pool.

The coming Gilas campaign is expected to be even tougher but the national cagers will all be enjoying total support from the PBA this time.

As PBA chair Robert Non of San Miguel Beer recently declared, all the players released to Gilas this time “have the approval of the team owners.”

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TAGS: Andray Blatche, Basketball, China, FIBA Asia, Gilas Pilipinas, Manny V. Pangilinan, Marc Pingris, PBA, Rio Olympics, Robert Non, San Miguel Beermen, San Miguel Corporation, Sports, Tab Baldwin
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