‘He has earned that’
Because of his size—and how great he played for Team Philippines in the last qualifying window—Andray Blatche is Yeng Guiao’s first choice as a naturalized player in the event that the Philippines fails to get the green light from Fiba to have Jordan Clarkson play as a Filipino.
“Right now, he has earned that if you ask me,” Guiao said of Blatche, the hero in a 93-75 victory over Kazakhstan on Sunday that sewed up a second straight World Cup stint for the country. “His size is vital in international tournaments.”
But Guiao wouldn’t mind not having to make a choice.
“I’m happy with Andray,” he said. “I’ll be happier [if he can play] with Jordan Clarkson.”
The country can’t suit up both Clarkson and Blatche in China in the Aug. 31 to Sept. 15 showcase because the international cage federation still recognizes Clarkson as a naturalized player.
The Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas is currently working on an appeal to get Clarkson to play as a local.
At 6-feet-11 with the ability to play the perimeter with ease, Blatche’s talent fits the international game. He scored 41 points and had 14 rebounds against the Kazakhs, shooting 17 of his total in a torrid first quarter effort that dictated the pace of the game.
Meanwhile, Blatche’s stint in the PBA Commissioner’s Cup this year was canned immediately, with chair Ricky Vargas not wanting that to set a precedent in breaking the league’s import rules.
“While we want him to play with us and be with us, there are certain rules that we have to adhere to,” Vargas said in a press conference after a board meeting on Friday. “Otherwise, it will really kill the PBA process.”
The height limit for imports in the Commissioner’s Cup is 6-foot-10, and Vargas also said that it would be unfair for the 11 other teams in the field if Blatche, who is listed at 6-11, will be given a special exemption.
The door, though, is not entirely closed.
“I’m not saying that [he will not be allowed to play]. I’m just saying that it will be difficult to seek that exemption. We are 12 teams and we have to take a look at that very carefully.”
A successful appeal for Clarkson will allow the Cleveland Cavaliers standout in the NBA to suit up alongside Blatche and give the country a fighting chance to advance past the group stages of the World Cup.
Meanwhile, every member of the team—counting coaching staff—got bonuses from the MVP group and another staunch basketball patron in Ramon S. Ang of San Miguel Corp.
Details of the financial incentive were not disclosed, though Alfrancis Chua, Barangay Ginebra’s representative to the PBA board and SMC director of basketball operations, admitted RSA’s part of the bonus.
“Do you see anyone with a long face in this table?” a smiling Manny V. Pangilinan said in Filipino, referring to the players, before making everyone laugh when he joked: “Sometimes it’s cheaper for the team to lose.”