SBP working to secure Blatche’s services for Olympic Wildcard
THE SAMAHANG Basketbol ng Pilipinas doesn’t see any problem getting the services of naturalized center Andray Blatche for Gilas Pilipinas’ stint in the Rio de Janeiro Olympic Qualifier in July next year.
And the governing basketball body is confident the 6-foot-11 former Brooklyn Net will agree to an amended contract with SBP and reinforce the national team that has obtained the full backing of the Philippine Basketball Association.
“We don’t see any problems in Dray playing, God forbid,” SBP executive director Sonny Barrios told the Inquirer. “What I know is that our representatives are talking with his (Blatche’s) representatives for that (Olympic qualifier).”
Barrios said Blatche’s contract with Gilas requires him to play in last September’s Fiba Asia Championship in China, where the Filipinos finished a fighting second to the Chinese, and then in the Olympics itself next year in Brazil.
“The (final) Olympic qualifier was not included in his contract,” Barrios said. “Had we qualified directly, it would have been straight to Rio for everyone. We didn’t see (losing the gold medal to China and playing) in another Olympic qualifier.
“This is actually just an amendment (to his contract), if you can call it that, to the talks we had with him prior to (the Fiba Asia in) Changsha (China).”
Gilas has another NBA talent it can use in Jordan Clarkson of the Los Angeles Lakers. This prospect, however, hinges on the Lakers missing the playoffs and on SBP’s efforts to satisfy Fiba requirements to further prove the 6-foot-5 point guard’s claim to Filipino citizenship.
The final qualifier—which the Philippines is bidding to host—is set in July, much earlier than the late-September playdate of the Fiba Asia in Changsha.
This could work well for Blatche, who was criticized for being overweight and out of shape when he arrived in Manila for the first Gilas practice last August.
Blatche plays under contract in the China Basketball Association, whose season ends early in March next year, and he could return to Manila in much better shape for the final Olympic qualifier.
Gilas has started preparing for the final qualifying tournament, with coach Tab Baldwin getting near-perfect attendance from his new pool of 17 PBA players during their first practice on Monday night.
Only Ranidel de Ocampo, who had a freak back injury while lifting weights two weeks ago, was absent and was excused.
Reigning two-time PBA MVP June Mar Fajardo and a number of other standouts from San Miguel Corp. teams were there together with injured Rain or Shine point guard Paul Lee – the two most notable holdouts of the last Gilas squad.