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Coping without Blatche

Andray Blatche has been the Gilas anchor since his arrival to replace naturalized player Marcus Douthit on the national team that saw action at the FIBA World Cup in Spain in 2014. The nine-year NBA veteran was a fixture on the Gilas squads at the FIBA Asia Championships in Changsha in 2015, the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament at the Mall of Asia Arena last year and the SEABA Championships at the Smart Araneta Coliseum last May.

Blatche, 30, would’ve been the main man for Gilas at the FIBA Asia Cup in Lebanon on Aug. 8-20 but the 6-11 center has begged off from playing and it’s not clear why. The speculation is he’s worried about the peace and order situation in Syria which borders Lebanon. It’s also possible that Blatche is prioritizing family obligations with three-month-old son Andray, Jr. The withdrawal may have something to do with Blatche’s existing contract with Xinjiang in the Chinese Basketball Association. Blatche has a year left in the contract and China is in the same bracket as the Philippines in the first round of the FIBA Asia Cup. It couldn’t be a money issue because the SBP has a ready budget for Blatche in every major competition.

Andray Blatche.
Blatche has issued a statement on his decision to stay away, wishing Gilas the best of luck, but sidestepped his reason for opting out.  “I will always be very thankful for the opportunity the love and the support I have received from my Filipino family but it’s a lot of reasons why I can’t join and I don’t expect for many people to understand but I do wish my brothers the best of luck,” he said. Even Gilas head coach Chot Reyes is in the dark as to why Blatche has backed out.

But wondering why Blatche turned his back on Gilas won’t get the national team anywhere.  The fact is Blatche won’t be around in Lebanon and Gilas must cope with his absence. Reyes has named 12 players to wear the national colors at the FIBA Asia Cup, a stand-alone tournament that is not a qualifier for either the World Cup or the Olympics. Although it’s not a qualifier, the standings will be reflected in the world ranking of every participating country and that’s important because of seeding positions in future FIBA draws. Playing in the FIBA Asia Cup with the strongest possible lineup is also a test of how ready Gilas is for the FIBA World Cup home-and-away qualifying series to start in November. Moreover, Gilas will get the chance to assess Australia and New Zealand whose national teams are making their first appearance at the FIBA Asia Cup. Both the Oceania teams are in contention for seven World Cup slots out of the FIBA Asia/Pacific unified zone.

The 12 Gilas players are JuneMar Fajardo, Japeth Aguilar, Jayson Castro, Terrence Romeo, Calvin Abueva, Gabe Norwood, Raymond Almazan, Jio Jalalon, Matthew Wright, R. R. Pogoy, Christian Standhardinger and Carl Bryan Cruz. Only five of the 12 saw action at the recent Jones Cup in Taipei and two will suit up in both the FIBA Asia Cup and the SEA Games on Aug. 19-30. Standhardinger, 28, is a 6-8 Fil-German who’ll play alongside Fajardo in Reyes’ frontline.

Source: http://www.philstar.com/sports/2017/07/30/1722898/coping-without-blatche

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