China not yet worrying about Asian teams Olympics race, says Serbian coach | Inquirer Sports

China not yet worrying about Asian teams Olympics race, says Serbian coach

/ 04:25 AM August 26, 2023

China's Serbian coach Aleksandar Djrodjevic

FILE–China’s Serbian coach Aleksandar Djrodjevic. -FIBA BASKETBALL

While Gilas Pilipinas has already started putting the Paris Olympics in its crosshairs, a perennial rival and continental heavyweight is staying right in the moment for now.

Aleksandar Đorđević, the former Serbian national coach who now mentors China, said he had not begun worrying about such a scenario. He does, however, understand that making it to Paris is the ultimate goal in this World Cup.


“Well, that’s one of the things we should start thinking about. But it’s just there,” said Aleksandar Đorđević, the Serbian who used to coach his country’s national squad but knows calls the shots for long-time Asian kingpin China. “We cannot calculate anything [just yet]. The only thing we can do is play the games the best we can and that’s what we will do.


Đorđević has that luxury.

China is traditionally one of the strongest Asian teams and former Philippines national coach Tab Baldwin said Team Dragon has perhaps the easiest group in the Fiba World Cup.

But it’s not going to be a walk in the park for the powerhouse Asians.

“Japan’s good, Iran’s good, China’s good and you know, Philippines has a chance. Everybody’s gotta, you know, put on their boxing gloves and get ready for a real battle when it gets down to those rounds,” he told reporters hours before Gilas’ opening match against Dominican Republic on Friday.

China opens its bid on Saturday against Serbia. It is also grouped with Puerto Rico and South Sudan.

The Chinese will have Minnesota Timberwolves ace Kyle Anderson reinforcing a squad that includes rising youngsters Zeng Fanbo and Zhang Zhenlin.


And there is no doubt they will figure prominently for that ticket to Paris, which will be given to the highest-placed country of every continent.

National coach Chot Reyes has plotted several scenarios depending on the outcome of Gilas’ group stage, but he has no doubt that China will be part of his planning.

“[W]e all know who is the Asian team that might be there in case we have to play them in the second round [because] we might [need to] beat somebody in the second round to get into the Olympics. We’re thinking about that as well,” Reyes said of the Chinese, a regular at the Olympics but absent in the last Tokyo Games.

Possible route

Unlike Đorđević, Reyes has already mapped out a possible route to the Summer Games.

“Just to give you an idea of how immense the thinking that’s going on behind what we’re doing here: While we’re thinking of the teams that we’re playing tomorrow and the next couple of days, we’re also thinking about scenarios,” he said on the eve of the tournament.

“[W]e have to remember that whatever happens, if things do not go as planned, if things don’t go our way in the first round, there is still another round of games for us to play and therein might lie the qualifiers,” Reyes added.

The other Asian countries in the World Cup who will also gun for that outright Olympic berth are Jordan, Iran, Lebanon and cohost Japan.

Đorđević did say he was aware of the footrace among Asian teams to Paris. After all, the other countries will be looking to do the same.

“[W]e all know, like all the teams here, the 32 teams here, their first goal is to qualify for the Olympics, because the Olympics is something that, for the players, the coaches, the federation is the most amazing thing: representing his country, being there,” he said.

Best known by Filipino fans as the coach who said Gilas was “missing quality” back in the 2019 World Cup held in China, Đorđević underscored something that tends to be glossed over in high-stakes competitions like this.

“In a championship like the World Cup, you’ll need a lot of luck to [arrive] at a result that you’ll be happy with in the end,” he said. “You need to be good, you need to play good, you need to raise your level. But you also need a good chance of luck because sometimes those [crossovers] will work for you. Sometimes it won’t. You don’t know how until the competition develops.”

After locking horns with the Dominican Republic late Friday, the Philippines will now focus on Angola, which is hoping to bounce back after dropping an 81-67 decision to Italy on opening day.

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In another opening match, Australia waylaid Finland, 98-72.

TAGS: Fiba World Cup, Sports

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