Blatche for Gilas Pilipinas

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By Noel G. Tulabut

My Palm Notes

Friday, March 14, 2014


WE ARE that close.

Getting some respect in the international sporting scene, particularly in professional basketball is afoot.

With the FIBA World Cup just five months away, Gilas Pilipinas now really needs to boost its stock. And I believe every pride-loving Filipinos like me would agree with moves to get the best players in town and even from outside.

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If we are to stand a chance against powerful teams first on the bracket (Argentina, Croatia, Greece, Puerto Rico and Senegal), I see nothing wrong with the move to get more naturalized players in the line-up. The Philippines had done this since the 1980s.

The national team which won the Jones Cup in 1981-1982 was augmented by by naturalized Americans Dennis Still, Jeff Moore and Arthur Chip Engelland. The natural-born Filipinos Hector Calma, Samboy Lim and others. It was bankrolled by business tycoon Eduardo Cojuangco and they dominated tournaments in the Asian region.

More recently, the national team was reinforced by 6-9 Marcus Douthit, the former Los Angeles Laker player who contributed big numbers for Gilas Pilipinas on the road to FIBA World Cup. Mind you, it took the Philippines to knock on the doors of basketball World Cup before we succeeded last year with reinforcement like Douthit.

I would say that getting Andray Blatche who is having a solid game with the Brooklyn Nets in the NBA through naturalization will definitely be a big boost to the Philippine Team.

The 6-11, 8-year veteran is averaging 11.6 points, 5.6 rebounds, 1.4 assists in the current season, doing better than newly acquired Kevin Garnett who only averages 6.7 ppg this season. Blatche also excels even with the presence of other big men on the Nets roster like Brook Lopez (7.0) and Mason Plumlee (6-11).

I have personally seen him play at Barclays Center in Brooklyn and he looks tough, a real team player and ready for international kind of play.

Gilas Pilipinas will compete with other nationals who also have some professional basketball players in their line-ups in the FIBA World Cup. The likelihood of seeing San Antonio Spurs’ Manu Ginobili and Indiana Pacers’ Luis Scola (Argentina), Minnesota Timberwolves (Puerto Rico) is very high.

With the original plan by Philippine basketball authorities to also have Javale Mcgee of the Denver Nuggets going down the drain now, Gilas Pilipinas is left with no better option than to see the naturalization process for Blatche go on smooth sailing.

News reports have it that the naturalization bill is moving in record pace. The House of Representatives passed last Monday on third and final reading House Bill 4084 granting citizenship to Blatche. Some 200 members of the House were in attendance. There was no opposition and there was no abstention, according to Deputy Speaker Robbie Puno who authored the bill.

The Senate must now pass its own version of the naturalization bill for Blatche. And when it does, there would be one law enacted (known as Republic Act in the Philippines) when the President of the Republic signs it. Even if he does not, it automatically becomes a law after one month lapses.

All these actions are expected to be completed before the July 15 submission to FIBA of a 24-man pool of each participating country to the 2014 FIBA World Cup in Spain on August 30 to September 14 this year.

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Already, the move to have Blatche naturalized is getting mixed reactions.

ESPN New York through Mike Mazzeo’s article stated on January 30 that Blatche who was reported to be half Filipino said the 6-11 center is "serious about the possibility of playing for the Philippines in the FIBA World Cup this summer."

"I said I'm interested, so there’s a good chance of it happening," Mazzeo quoted Blatche in his report about the Brooklyn Nets.

The article stated: "Blatche said the idea came out of left field, and was brought to his attention a couple of days ago by good friend and ex-Washington Wizards teammate JaVale McGee."

It furthered: "Basically, just go over there, and I can imagine just win," he (Blatche) said. "Play. Hoop. Win. Whatever. I don't know."

Leading internet sports page SB Nation’s Nets Daily carried an article that was headlined "Andray Blatche almost a Filipino" in its March 11 issue, citing the approval of the House Bill.

The same webpage described Blatche as "FIBA World Cup best bets" (along with Croatia's Bojan Bogdanovic) on February 2.

Of course not all share the enthusiasm.

The For The Win page of usatoday.com carried a banner on January 30 that reads "Andray Blatche claims he is half-Filipino, probably isn't."

An article written by Sean Highkin had the tweet of Andrew Keh, a reporter of the New York Times covering the Brooklyn Nets and the NBA, which states: "Andray Blatche, who asked us to call him Young Seymour, said he is half Filipino, which may not be true."

The same article stated "Blatche being half-Filipino is news to everyone, and nobody is sure if it’s true. Count teammate Joe Johnson among those that are skeptical."

Then, it also carried a tweet by Rod Boone (a sports reporter for Newsday) which read: “Joe Johnson was asked if he knew that Andray Blatche was half Filipino. Joe said: "No, but he’s full of -----" (blanked on tweet)

Highkin wrote further "Neither Blatche’s mother nor his father are Filipino, so Johnson may not be far off. But if Blatche wants to reunite with former Washington Wizards teammate JaVale McGee, no basketball fan should want to get in the way of that. Why not get Nick Young and Jordan Crawford on board while they’re at it?"

"Blatche is having a solid season for the Nets. He'd never sniff a spot on the Team USA roster, so if he wants to play in the World Cup, going elsewhere is the move. More power to Blatche, I guess."

*****

Let's go Team Philippines. Let's go get Blatche.

Published in the Sun.Star Pampanga newspaper on March 15, 2014.

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