Sending a men’s basketball team to the 18th Asian Games with an NBA-caliber talent in Jordan Clarkson took a lot of time, effort, and—naturally—emotions

By Klyde Manansala | Photos by Tristan Tamayo

From the infamous melee that embarrassed the Philippines to the hasty decision of the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) to withdraw its participation at the 18th Asian games, the past months have been an absolutely delirious ride for the basketball community.

In the end, we were able to heave a sigh of relief. After just a little over a week of pulling out from the Asiad, the SBP answered the public clamor to send a squad to Indonesia.

Realizing that we have to live up to our basketball-loving brand, SBP backtracked its earlier decision to eventually send the core of Rain or Shine Elasto Painters with former coach Yeng Guiao. They will also serve as the revamped Gilas Pilipinas lineup that will seek redemption against the unfortunate mishaps inevitably splashed across the national team.

And just as we thought the drama was over, another issue transpired. The SBP, together with Asian Games mission chief Richard Gomez’ remarks, has expressed their disappointment after the NBA disallowed Fil-Am Cleveland Cavaliers guard Jordan Clarkson to play for the Philippines. It was the last hurdle the SBP needed to overcome after getting the green light from both the Cavs management and Asian Games committee.

As per NBA rules, the Asian Games is not included in the tournaments the association is mandated to lend its players under the FIBA agreement. However, China has submitted a lineup fielding Zhou Qi and Ding Yanyuhang, both of whom have contracts under Houston Rockets and Dallas Mavericks, respectively. Several Philippine sports officials raised this fact in an effort to appeal Clarkson’s case while netizens also pounded their arguments, placing the NBA under-fire. The league kept restrained until another perplexing turn of events took place.

Two days after prohibiting the Fil-Am guard to join the the national team, the NBA revised its decision and gave the go signal for Clarkson to represent the Philippines in the Asiad. Yesterday, the SBP and NBA released a joint statement regarding the decision:

But as the poignant sports fans Pinoys have always been, we were quick to cry out our sentiments to the NBA—that they were unfair, that we were being discriminated against—before the league can even reassess the case and make amendments. Instead of requesting clarifications, many fans perceive the issue to be a case of double standard. Philippine Olympic Committee secretary general Patrick Gregorio even said they will never forget what the NBA did, but quickly regained focus instead of playing the victim card.

Now that the local basketball federation’s vigilance has paid off, Clarkson’s addition can provide more energy and athleticism to Gilas.

As expected, Clarkson’s presence will bolster Gilas’ firepower. He is a weapon that could be utilized from both ends. Nevertheless, with or without Clarkson’s talent, the Gilastopainters, as fans call it, is composed of a unit that can shoot well from the outside and defend multiple schemes—half-court setups, transition plays, and post-up situations.

“But as the poignant sports fans Pinoys have always been, we were quick to cry out our sentiments to the NBA—that they were unfair, that we were being discriminated against—before the league can even reassess the case and make amendments

Offensive-wise, the back court duo of Paul Lee and Globalport’s Stanley Pringle is a striking one. They’re two of the best scoring guards in the PBA and are hard to contain once they get going.

The absence of naturalized center Andray Blatche and PBA MVP Jun Mar Fajardo is a huge blow, but Christian Standhardinger has already proven what he’s capable of. As seen in his previous international stints as well as with m San Miguel Beermen, the 6’8” bruiser has raised the standards of centers today: he can defend and hurt you from hitting efficient perimeter jump shots.

Plus, 45-year-old Asi Taulava, who is returning for his third Asian Games, could inject veteran leadership along with a little help from sharpshooters James Yap and Chris Tiu.

The only uncertain thing is if this squad can play with consistency throughout the tournament. Basically, every win is just as important as the other as only the top two teams in each three-team bracket will advance to the next round. The Gilas finds themselves in a virtual knockout game against the Kazakhs in their campaign opener, and reports say that Clarkson will likely miss the game and will make his debut against China instead.

The Kazakhs and the Filipinos have faced each other numerous times. The strategy to win the game is simple: Keep the game close, limit the turnovers, and never let the opposing team break away and build a massive lead—this game plan applies to all the foreseeable games. We have brute force ready to battle in Indonesia, and it’s just a matter of time before we finally see Clarkson don the Philippine colors. For Guiao and his boys, it’s one game at a time.

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