'Young' Iran tries to cope with absence of veteran stars vs PH | Inquirer Sports

‘Young’ Iran tries to cope with absence of veteran stars vs PH

By: - Reporter / @BLozadaINQ
/ 12:17 PM December 03, 2018

Photo from Fiba.com

Iran’s 6-3 record in Group F of the Fiba World Cup Asian Qualifiers appears a stable one on paper.

Team Melli, after all, is in second place of the group and the top three teams from Groups E and F are assured of advancing to the 2019 Fiba Basketball World Cup in China.

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What lurks underneath that win-loss mark, however, is a turmoil that prevented stars Hammed Haddadi, Nikkhah Bahrami, and Arsalan Kazemi to suit up for Iran at this stage of the qualifiers.

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Iran head coach Mehran Shahintab said Bahrami is in the United States and couldn’t join the team in time for its game against the Philippines on Monday at Mall of Asia Arena while Haddadi “has a personal reason” for not playing.

Shahintab knows he doesn’t have the star power the team usually has during Fiba competitions.

“We have a young team, we have some motivated players and they will try their best,” said Shahintab Sunday at Mall of Asia Arena after the team’s practice. “We didn’t play well against Australia (losing 76-47) but we’ll try to compensate tomorrow.”

Haddadi played just one minute against the Philippines in the two teams’ first meeting in Iran in the second round due to injury and this was the reason why the 7-foot-2 center didn’t suit up for Team Melli in this window.

According to the South China Morning Post, Haddadi was unhappy with the support he received from Iran during the time he was injured.

Haddadi instead signed with Xinjiang Flying Tigers in the CBA, as per Shahintab.

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“I heard that he signed with Xinjiang in China because he was engaged with the club.”

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Haddadi has been Iran’s star for the past decade, leading the team to three gold medals in the Fiba Asia Championship with Bahrami as his trusted sidekick.

TAGS: Fiba World Cup Asian qualifiers, Gilas Pilipinas, Hamed Haddadi, Iran, Nikka Bahrami, Philippines, Sports

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