Gilas eyes more tune-up matches for tourney in need of stars | Inquirer Sports
FIBA WORLD CUP

Gilas eyes more tune-up matches for tourney in need of stars

/ 04:20 AM July 25, 2023

Justin Brownlee GIlas Pilipinas FIba World Cup

Justin Brownlee joins the GIlas Pilipinas training in Europe for the Fiba World Cup. –SBP

Gilas Pilipinas needs more practice games. The Fiba (International Basketball Federation) World Cup needs more big names.

One of those will be easier to address, with a little help from the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA).

The country’s pro league said it is willing to lend its teams as potential tune-up foes for the national team that is preparing for the global basketball showcase that will be cohosted by the country.

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“If they need it, why not?” PBA commissioner Willie Marcial told the Inquirer over the phone on Monday afternoon on the heels of national coach Chot Reyes’ comments that the team took a step back after its Europe camp due to a lack of games. “As I’ve said over and over before, we’re always willing to help out the program in any way.”

Marcial said there would be no need to form selection teams, the way the National Basketball Association did for Team USA, rationalizing that the league’s teams will be a better alternative for the national team.

“For me, I think it would be better if they (Gilas) played actual teams,” he said. “A selection would mean a collection of players, like an All-Star squad. A team, on the other hand, has long been tested.”

As this developed, it looks as if the tournament that already took a hit in terms of drawing power—when the US team unveiled a roster plucked from the lower shelf of its superstar list—could lose another big name when the event tips off in August.

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A Serbian online media outfit has raised the possibility of two-time Most Valuable Player Nikola Jokic skipping the World Cup. Japan’s Rui Hachimura, meanwhile, has begged off from the Akatsuki Five to focus on his upcoming NBA season with the Los Angeles Lakers. Luka Doncic and Giannis Antetokounmpo, meanwhile, remain listed in Slovenia and Greece’s preliminary squads. Antetokounmpo, however, will be coming off surgery.

French teen superstar and NBA top pick Victor Wembanyama has already said he won’t play for France in the World Cup. Over at Gilas, Scottie Thompson is still doubtful after a hand injury while Utah Jazz star Jordan Clarkson still hasn’t committed to suiting up for the national squad.

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More than personnel problems, however, Reyes said his priority is getting more games in for Gilas to maintain the momentum from camps in Estonia and Lithuania.

“We have a very small margin for error,” he said. “That’s a problem. And when we came back here [in Manila] [there was] kind of a backslide. That’s why we need to keep on playing games to make sure we’re staying sharp.”

The Philippines is scheduled to compete in a pocket tournament in Heyuan City in Guangdong, China. The team will suit up at Heyuan Gymnasium against Iran on Aug. 4, and then against Senegal two days later.

Both matches are at set 8 p.m. (Manila time) and could very well provide a glimpse of the final roster that takes on Angola, the Dominican Republic, and world No. 10 Italy in Group A of the quadrennial event.

“It’s also to assimilate the new guys, those who weren’t able to join us in Europe,” Reyes said of his goal in China.

The Nationals will also host No. 18 Montenegro and No. 31 Mexico a week before the big dance.

Any other games aside from those already scheduled will certainly be welcome for Gilas, which is finally getting to practice with Ray Parks, Jr., Calvin Oftana, and Roger Pogoy—who had been injured up until the national team’s Europe trip.

“I’m a bit confident with my conditioning now. If there is anything that I missed, those would be just plays,” said Oftana, a versatile forward who was coming off bouts with a calf strain, and then typhoid and dengue he contracted during the Southeast Asian Games.

Aside from keeping its doors open to Gilas, Marcial said the PBA is also lending its communications team to the local organizing committee (LOC) of the World Cup.

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“We’re also in talks with the LOC and the [Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas] should they feel the need to tap our operations team,” he added. INQ

TAGS: Gilas Pilipinas, Sports

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