Haddadi-less Iran not to be taken lightly | Inquirer Sports

Haddadi-less Iran not to be taken lightly

By: - Reporter / @MarkGiongcoINQ
/ 04:13 PM June 06, 2016

Jayson Castro of the Philippines challenges the defense of Hamed Haddadi of Iran during their game in the 2015 Fiba Asia Championship in Changsha, China. Photo from Fiba.com

Jayson Castro of the Philippines challenges the defense of Hamed Haddadi of Iran during their game in the 2015 Fiba Asia Championship in Changsha, China. Photo from Fiba.com

Iran isn’t the same team the Philippines beat in the 2015 Fiba Asia Championship in China, but Gilas Pilipinas still expects these Iranians to be as equally competitive when the two Asian rivals play back-to-back tuneup games beginning Tuesday.

Six of Iran’s mainstays, including its star center Hamed Haddadi, versatile forward Nikkhah Bahrami and astute point guard Mehdi Kamrani, did not travel with the team to Manila. Haddadi, who has led Iran to three gold medals in the Fiba Asia Championships, had to attend to a “personal” matter while Bahrami and Kamrani are not part of the roster this year, according to the team’s German head coach Dirk Bauermann. “Malalaki pa rin sila. Magaling talaga sila. Nakalaban na rin namin sila dati ng wala si Haddadi and ganoon pa rin yung takbo ng team nila,” said Gilas Pilipinas’ veteran forward Marc Pingris. “I’m sure, Iran is Iran. Alam naman natin na talagang magaling yung Iran, ilang beses na sila nag-champion sa Asia so kailangan nandoon pa rin yung respeto namin sa kanila and kailangan ibigay pa rin namin ang 100 percent namin,” said guard Terrence Romeo. Pingris, who has had many battles with Iran including a loss in the gold medal match in the 2013 Fiba Asia Championship and a breakthrough victory in the second round of the 2015 Fiba Asia Championships, would’ve preferred facing a complete Iran side. “For us, kumpleto man sila o hindi, gusto pa rin namin manalo pero mas malaking bagay kasi sana kung nandoon si Haddadi para maka-adjust kami agad kasi mas malaki yung mga makakalaban namin sa Greece, sa Italy,” Pingris said. But even minus Haddadi and company, Pingris knows Gilas can’t have a different approach in the tuneups. “Nandoon pa rin kasi kailangan pa rin nila patunayan na kahit wala yung mga star players nila kaya nilang mag-step up para manalo,” he said. “Ayaw din namin mapahiya, ayaw din nila mapahiya. Magandang laban yon.” Japeth Aguilar echoed his teammate’s sentiment. “There are always good players in Iran. Minsan nakikita ko rin yung youth nila, may pamalit talaga sila kay Haddadi. So kahit wala siya, mataas pa rin level ng basketball nila,” said Aguilar. Aguilar lamented not being around when Gilas finally took down the mighty Iran last year after undergoing surgery on his pinky finger. Iran is in the middle of a transition period from its so-called “golden generation” to a younger lineup still with the 31-year-old Haddadi as its backbone. The Iranians recently ruled the 2016 West Asia Basketball Association (WABA) held in Jordan. “We don’t know much about Iran. We know a lot of their players but we don’t really know how coach Bauermann has them playing right now,” Philippine team head coach Tab Baldwin told reporters. “They just won the WABA competition and apparently they look pretty good doing it so they’re probably ahead of us in terms of preparation because they knew they had to get their team ready for that.”
“You can never relax against Iran. Yung mga batang players nila they have a lot of energy and they’re aggressive,” Aguilar said. Tuesday’s scrimmage between Gilas and Iran will be closed-door at Gatorade Hoops Center while the second and last exhibition game will be played on Wednesday before a crowd at Smart Araneta Coliseum.
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TAGS: Gilas Pilipinas, Hamed Haddadi, Iran, Japeth Aguilar, Marc Pingris, Philippines, Tab Baldwin, Terrence Romeo, tuneup

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