JAKARTA—Both the NBA and national coach Yeng Guiao have but one rule when it comes to Jordan Clarkson.
Clarkson will get to play only in one tournament for Gilas Pilipinas this year and Guiao hopes to make it count with plans to unleash the Cleveland Cavaliers standout “like an import” in the Asian Games men’s basketball competitions here.
The Inquirer learned Wednesday night that the NBA made the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas choose between the Asiad and the Fiba World Cup Qualifying windows, saying it won’t allow Clarkson to suit up for both because of health concerns.
“It was a no-brainer that we chose the Asian Games, because this is the Olympics of the region and we want to go there with the best chance that we have (at winning),” said Al Panlilio, the SBP president who, together with chair and basketball backer Manny V. Pangilinan, lobbied long and hard to get the clearance from the NBA.
“The Filipino people have waited so long to see Jordan play for the country,” Panlilio said. “And we are also excited.”
And it looks like the country will get a lot of looks at Clarkson in a Philippines kit.
“I will play him like an import,” Guiao told the Inquirer after practice Wednesday as the Filipinos prepare for their all-important clash with rugged Kazakhstan in Group D play that will more or less determine whether or not Gilas advances to the KO stages.
“We won’t ask him to score 50 points and get 20 rebounds, but his intelligence would make me want to have him on the floor for the most part,” Guiao said.
“Basically, he will be resting just a couple of minutes a quarter,” he said. “We will be a better team with him around and at the same time, with Jordan coming over, we can now hold our own in the guard positions against any country in this tournament.”
The NLEX coach in the PBA, though, was quick to temper fan expectations.
“Jordan coming in is not an instant solution to our deficiencies,” he said. “But he is certainly going to be a big help.”
Clarkson, according to Guiao, also upgraded the Philippines’ status against powerhouse China.
“From total underdogs in the China game, we are now just the slight underdogs,” Guiao said. “What we know is that they (Chinese) have three 7-footers, but with Clarkson around, who knows, we might get lucky.”
China also got the same deal as the Philippines in getting clearance for two of its players signed to NBA contracts.
Zhou Qi of the Houston Rockets and Ding Yanyuhang of the Dallas Mavericks will also not be able to suit up for the qualifying windows as a result of the clearance they got to suit up for the Asiad, which is one of the tournaments that the NBA releases players to.
But the rule hit the Philippines harder than China, which really doesn’t need to win games in the Fiba windows since the Chinese are already seeded to the 2019 World Cup being the hosts.
Panlilio also bared that the NBA’s Mark Tatum played a key role in Clarkson and the two Chinese, getting the green light from the league to play in the Asiad. The SBP got the written consent at 9 Wednesday morning.
“Basically, the NBA doesn’t want to gamble on the health of their players by having them play in the Asian Games and then in the (Fiba) windows,” Panlilio told the Inquirer. “The NBA feels that having them play both events, and with training camp to follow the week after, would be too much for their bodies to take.”
The affected games that Clarkson will miss are the away game against Iran and the home match against Qatar, which will be played behind closed doors as a result of the July 2 brawl between the Philippines and Australia in their World Cup qualifying showdown.
Also as a result of that brawl, 10 Gilas standouts were suspended in varying number of games, thoroughly depleting the country’s national pool.
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