Sooner or later, the Philippines will have to consider looking for another naturalized player should Andray Blatche choose to resume his NBA career.
Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas deputy director for international affairs Butch Antonio said the 6-foot-11 Blatche may have toiled in the Chinese Basketball Association for the last 2 years. But the 29-year-old Filipino naturalized player seemed not keen in closing the door on a possible return stint in the NBA.
“I guess he (Blatche) still has an NBA dream in his plans. I think with him, like any player with a shot at the NBA, he’d like to go back,” Antonio told FOX Sports.
Asked if the SBP, this early, is already considering finding a back up, Antonio replied: “Yung ganun, that’s some thing we have to contend until that happens.”
For the moment, Antonio said the national governing body’s hands are full due to the upcoming FIBA Olympic Qualifying tournament, which the country is hosting this July at the Mall of Asia Arena.
Gilas, which will again be reinforced by Blatche, will be shooting for no less than a berth for the Olympics and a chance to return to the Summer Games for the 1st time since the 1972 edition in Munich, Germany.
“Sa ngayon, we cannot think about that (finding a back up naturalized player) because we have so many things going on,” explained Antonio, who also serves as Gilas’ team manager.
“Siyempre, ang priority natin is yung hosting the OQT and yung participation muna natin dun,” said Antonio.
Blatche, who got his Filipino citizenship in May 2014, has played for Gilas Pilipinas the last 2 years.
The former Brooklyn Nets slotman 1st reinforced Gilas in the 2014 FIBA World Cup, where he averaged 21.2 points, 13.8 rebounds and 1.6 steals.
The sweet-shooting forward/center, returned the following year, a bit overweight during training camp, but managed to lead Gilas to a silver medal finish in the 2015 FIBA-Asia men’s championships behind champion China in Changsa.
Blatche, selected 49th overall by the Washington Wizards in 2005 NBA Draft, owned NBA career averages of 10.1 points, 5.4 rebounds and 1.4 assists in 564 career games during a 9-year stint that ended in 2014 with the Nets. – By Richard Dy
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