The Jordan Clarkson Situation: Good Or Bad?

By now, the news has already sunk in. Jordan Clarkson WILL NOT be suiting up for Gilas Pilipinas come the Manila Olympic Qualifiers.

And while the knee jerk reaction by the public was one of dismay, his absence may actually be a blessing in disguise for the future of Gilas Pilipinas basketball.
Here are four reasons why Jordan Clarkson’s absence may actually prove to be a good thing:
With Clarkson’s citizenship status still unclear, the FIBA committee was taking no chances that they’d see a repeat of the 2011 FIBA Asia Championships, when five members of the Qatari national team were disqualified for having been granted citizenships just to play.
And because the decision on Jordan Clarkson’s case has the potential to set a precedent, the FIBA committee did what they do best: procrastinate. But telling SBP president Manny Pangilinan that Gilas could only play either Andray Blatche or Jordan Clarkson, they were putting the burden on us to decide.
Had we chosen to play Clarkson in Blatche’s place, it would have been tantamount to us saying we consider him to be a naturalized citizen. And other FIBA countries (especially China, Iran, South Korea and Chinese Taipei) would demand that Clarkson be considered such in future tournaments.
By not playing Clarkson now, we can ask the FIBA committee to look at his documents and finally decide (hopefully, in our favor) on Clarkson’s eligibity as a local player.
Don’t get me wrong, Jordan Clarkson is a world-class athlete and a legitimate NBA starting combo-guard. He’s also heads-and-shoulders above anyone we have on Gilas.
But that being said, the guard position is actually where we are stacked to the gills. At point, we’ve got Jason Castro, aka The Best Point Guard In Asia, who is at his peak, LA Tenorio, who has regained his fiery playmaking abilities, and Terence Romeo, who has been the most electrifying player for Gilas so far.
At shooting guard, we have the rugged Paul Lee and the very deadly sharpshooter from Negros, Jeff Chan, plus a host of wing players who’ll double as midsized shooting guards and smaller-than-usual smaller forwards, like Marcio Lassiter, Matt Ganuelas-Rosser, Calvin Abueva, and Ryan Reyes.
So, to be totally honest, if it’s a choice between an NBA-caliber guard and an NBA-caliber forward/center (Blatche is still NBA_caliber, but of a lower caliber), Gilas needs the big man more. And until the likes of Raymond Almazan, Troy Rosario and even Ian Sangalang finally come into their own, we will continue need the NBA-level big man more than NBA-level guard.
Sure, chances are he will play with Gilas someday. And many teams (most especially Asian teams) are already thinking about how Jordan Clarkson plays and how to neutralize him.
But until that very first tournament when Clarkson suits up and plays for us, no one will know what to do or expect. And much like what happened in Spain, if other countries can’t prepare for how Gilas plays, especiallt with Clarkson at the heart of the offense, then we’ve got a chance to score an upset or two and maybe make an even bigger splash in the global basketball scene.
This offseason, Clarkson has the opportunity to secure his family’s future. With his sterling performance on a ridiculous Lakers team, he’s set for the payday of a lifetime.
Just how much can Clarkson get this offseason? As much as 88.9 million dollars for 4 years from the Lakers. Or 57.9 million dollars from another team (Arenas provision at work here). 
And by not putting pressure on Clarkson to play, we are not piling on to his considerable concerns this offseason. Hopefully, that translates to an appreciative Clarkson who’ll be raring to play for Gilas, once he gets the contract he deserves.
One step back, two steps forward. Sure, our chances of making it to the Olympics got a lot dimmer. But the future of Gilas basketball remains bright if we can do the right thing with Jordan Clarkson.
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The Difficult Road Ahead (Part 1)

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When Gilas lost to China in the gold medal match of the FIBA Asia Championhips by a score of 67-78, we lost much, much more than just the continental title. We also lost the easiest available ticket to the Rio Olympics next year.
Gilas did qualify for the Olympic qualifiers in July next year, when 18 teams will battle it out for 3 more tickets to Rio. The problem? Already included in this roster of 18 teams are world-class teams like France, Serbia, Greece, Mexico and Puerto Rico, rising teams like Italy, the Czech Republic, Canada, and New Zealand, and Asian qualifiers Iran and Japan. That’s a murderers’ row of teams to get through for three Olympic tickets. 
So what are Gilas’ chances for an Olympic ticket? My biased opinion: fair to small. My unbiased opinion: small to miniscule. I’m sure your next question would be “why?” (or you could also be jumping down my throat for being unpatriotic, having no faith in Gilas or just being a sucky Filipino).
Let’s assume you asked why. Here’s how I see things going in the coming FIBA Olympic Qualifiers.
Biased Opinion: We may be able to field our best team yet, if politics do not rear up its ugly head once again and everything goes our way, with regards to team personnel. That means getting slim Andray Blatche back, getting the proper FIBA papers for Jordan Clarkson, and getting several PBA stars back into the fold.
With that in mind, this is what our roster will look like:
Sure picks: Slim Andray Blatche, Jordan Clarkson, Jayson Castro, Junmar Fajardo, Ranidel de Ocampo, Marc Pingris, Gabe Norwood, Calvin Abueva, and Terence Romeo.

This lineup is an experienced one but remarkably old, with speed and toughness galore. There are some areas that we could improve on (outside shooting, rebounding, defense) and these players would most probably be picked because of those problem areas.

Outside shooting – Paul Lee and Jeff Chan. Chan is the purer shooter but Lee is more than adequate. Either one would be a major upgrade over Ganuelas or Intal, and they’re also better than Abueva, who makes the team because of his other qualities.
Rebounding/defense – Jeth Troy Rosario. Makes the cut above players like Japeth Aguilar, Greg Slaughter and Raymond Almazan because of his combination of athleticism, skills, and tenacity. If Aguilar toughened up, or Slaughter sped up, or Alamazan bulked up, any of those three may have a chance to take this slot. But until then, Rosario has it because of his continuing game development plus his familiarity with Tab Baldwin’s system.
Outlook of this team:Very nice. This team can really do some major damage, with Fajardo scoring inside, Rosario preying at the baseline, Blatche and Clarkson from everywhere, Castro and Romeo driving into the lane, Chan, Lee and de Ocampo firing from three to break the zone, and Pingris, Norwood, and Abueva for energy and defense. Actually, that team could very well have beaten China at the FIBA Championships. Just sayin’.
Unbiased Opinion:If recent developments run true to form, politics will and already has reared up its ugly head.  That means not getting the PBA stars with the skill sets we need back into the fold. Hell, it might even mean not getting any PBA players at all. If we take the worst-case scenario, that means Gilas will be sending a team composed mostly of players from the MVP teams, plus some outstanding amateur cadets, chunky Blatche shows up to play, and Clarkson’s eligibity is turned down by FIBA.
With that in mind, this is what our roster will look like:
Sure picks: Chunky Andray Blatche, Jayson Castro, Ranidel de Ocampo, Jeth Troy Rosario, Jimmy Alapag, Kelly Williams, Matt Ganuelas-Rosser, Kiefer Ravena, Bobby Ray Parks, Kobe Paras, Kevin Ferrer and Glenn Khobuntin.
This lineup is so problematic it’s hard to know where to start. Size is basically non-existent, the mix of experience and youth is not balanced (meaning the old guys are really old, the young guys are really young and maybe only Blatche and Castro can be considered still at their peak), and toughness is a big, big question mark.  
Outlook of this team: Horrible. Andray Blatche is in no shape to be everything for the team, Castro and Alapag will need to be primary scorers and playmakers, Williams and Rosario will routinely give up 3-5 inches in their respective positions, and everyone else will be relatively inexperienced to bother battle-hardened international players.
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Gilas Demolishes Hong Kong, 101-50.

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Now that is what you call a statement game.
Yesterday’s shock defeat left everyone wondering how Gilas would react today. Sure, there were the expected “we’ll bounce back” declarations, the avowing of ire-venting, but words are cheap and Gilas was called upon to put up or shut up.
Well, they put them up and they never stopped punching until the final siren sounded. By them, they had beaten the overmatched Hong Kong team into submission and were gunning to hit the century mark, as an exclamation point to their dominating performance.
Right from the get-go, the Filipinos wanted to erase the bitterness left by yesterday’s defeat in their collective mouths by strangling Hong Kong on both ends of the floor. They started the game off with a 12-0 blast and even led 20-2 before Hong Kong could gather themselves and try to make a game out of it.
Andray Blatche was his usual self, hitting threes and driving for finger rolls but this time, he wasn’t doing it alone. Jayson Castro, after being told by Coach Baldwin to be more aggressive on offense, took matters into his own hands and drove into the paint for lay ups and even drained back-to-back threes in a span of thirty seconds.
Dondon Hontiveros also drained his own set of back-to-back threes and before you knew it, we were up 51-22 at halftime.
The third quarter was more of the same, with Gilas rotating their players to give more game burn to Intal, Ganuelas-Rosser, and Romeo. And by the fourth, the only questions left were whether Gilas would hit the century mark and if they’d be able to double their lead against Hong Kong. And the answers to those questions are “yes” and “hell, yes”, with the final score set at 101-50.

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Why Gilas Lost To Palestine

Why Gilas Lost To Palestine

Yes, we lost. Yes, we were expected to win. Yes, it’s a historic upset. But none of those things matter now. What matters is that Gilas learns from this game and uses those lessons to get better (hopefully, in time for tomorrow’s game).

That being said, here are three things that contributed to our loss to Palestine.
Palestine, despite having a 6’8” center, outrebounded the Philippines 58-53. What’s worse is that Palestine totally owned Gilas on the offensive boards, with a 23-17 advantage. Those come out to 12 potential second-chance points. In a two point loss, denying them 2 of those offensive rebounds could have won us the game.
The Gilas big men actually rebounded well, led by Blatche with 12, Abueva collaring 8, Thoss with 6, and de Ocampo with 5. But it’s the box-out system that seems to be broken, with Palestine’s Rebound Brothers, the Sakakinis, getting 6 offensive rebounds each. Their big O-reb numbers were aided by our defensive scheme, something I will get into in the next paragraph.
Don’t get me wrong. I think Tab Baldwin is a great coach. But in today’s match, he was nowhere near to being a good coach. Palestine came out like a house on fire, swinging hard to try to get Gilas off-balance. Gilas teetered, but regained balance by the end of the first quarter.
By the start of the second quarter, Palestine had pieced together an action plan on how to take down Gilas. First, they went after Terence Romeo on defense. By overpowering Romeo on the defensive side, they forced Baldwin to pull him out and put in Jayson Castro, the stronger, better defender. This is right after Romeo scored 5 quick points, helping Gilas erect a 15point first quarter lead.
After Romeo sat, Palestine’s big men went hard at Blatche. They got Blatche to foul twice in the span of one minute, and again, Baldwin had to pull him out. Gilas thus had to play almost the entire second quarter without two of their most dynamic offensive players.
By the third quarter, Palestine had figured out Gilas’ two fatal weaknesses: their lack of reliable shooters and their lack of discipline on defense. To exploit Gilas’ lack of reliable shooters, Palestine switched from a man-to-man coverage to a zone, daring the Filipinos to shoot from distance. They did…to the tune of 7-30 (23.3%). After that, it was just a matter of time before the Palestineans clogged the lane and kept our slashers and rebounders out of the shaded area.
On offense, seeing that the Filipinos were employing a “switch on all” defensive system that didn’t run very smoothly, the Palestineans countered by sending cutters and pickers on every play, targeting the likes of Castro, Romeo and Hontiveros for mismatches. Each of these guards were victimized by switching mismatches, the most costly of which was the last Palestinean play, when Hontiveros had to foul the hulking Sakakini, who made the and-one play that gave Palestine the win.
I have mentioned in previous articles about the need for game tapes. This game has underscored this need even more. With the advent of the digital age, the excuse “we have no scouting tapes” just doesn’t cut it. Even the star-studded 2006 US basketball team fell prey to this excuse, losing to a Greek team that had no NBA players in their roster because the US players didn’t even know who was on the other team. And that was a team with Lebron James, Carmelo Anthony and Dwayne Wade on it.
Another thing we have to remember is that this isn’t a problem other teams have with Gilas. There are tons of online videos about Gilas 3.0. And you can bet your butts that every team in the tournament has watched those and broken down which Gilas player can do what. If this is what Palestine can do to us with prior info on what we can do, just imagine what China, South Korea and Iran will do with that information.
We must therefore go into the games prepared with countermeasures for what will surely be our opponents’ tactics to exploit our weaknesses. Having no answer to a hard zone or a dynamic motion offense is unacceptable.
This is hardest pill to swallow. There were almost a dozen “50-50” balls in the game and Palestine won all but two. This, again, is unacceptable for a team with the #puso calling card. Palestine is one of those teams to whom we do not give up too much height, heft or speed. If we can’t beat them to loose balls, how will we fare against speedier teams like South Korea and Chinese-Taipei or bigger, heftier teams like China and Iran?
Another observation for me that is hard to swallow is that the boys seemed shell-shocked by the end of the fourth quarter. No one wanted the ball, not even Andray Blatche, who memorably handed the ball off to Asi Taulava with the clock winding down. This led to a fastbreak basket for Palestine, which undermined our confidence even more. This is the type of situation that Jimmy Alapag lives for and we certainly missed him today.

That being said, tomorrow is another day. It’s another chance to show Asia what Gilas is actually made of and to exhibit the Gilas #puso.
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Gilas Loses to Palestine on Historic Upset, 75-73.

By halftime, all the telltale signs were there. The stagnant offense, the confused defense, the silly mistakes, and the lackluster effort. All bode ill for Gilas and it was a prophecy that would soon come to fruition.
In the first quarter, the enigma that was Palestine drew first blood, holding a tenuous lead until the halfway mark of the quarter, when Gilas tied the score at 7. Andray Blatche and the just-inserted Terence Romeo then took the Palestinean defense apart, scoring in a variety of ways both inside and outside. The quarter ended with the Philippines leading 27-12.
In the second quarter, Palestine showed just how fast they can adjust as a team, as well as how well disciplined they were. Realizing that the Philippines was a more dynamic offensive team with Romeo playing, they went at him on defense, forcing him out of the game in favor of the more systematic-on-offense-and-more-solid-on-defense Jayson Castro. They then went after Andray Blatche, who picked up two quick fouls and had to sit down too. Palestine then took advantage of the suddenly toothless Gilas and whittled down the lead to a mere 5 points, 45-40. 
In the third quarter, Gilas seemed to have found their footing, with Blatche and Castro combining to score 7 straight points. And then the Palestineans ditched the man-to-man defense they had been employing in the first half and went with a zone defense, practically daring the Gilas shooters to take their shots from three point range. They had also figured out that they could overwhelm the Gilas frontline by crashing the boards and came away with several second chance points and keep the Filipinos within striking distance, 59-55.
In the fourth quarter, Gilas started out aggressively again, getting the lead back up to 9 with half the quarter gone. But Palestine refused to fold, going on a 10-0 run before Tab Baldwin finally called timeout. A look at the faces of the players told the entire story of the game: the huge smiles of the Palestineans saying they’ve already won, even if they lose and the desperate uncertainty in the eyes of the Filipino players saying they didn’t know if they could win or even deserve to win tonight.

With a minute left in the game, Palestine finally took the lead again. Andray Blatche answered with a lay up. Plestine countered with a good drive and drop off for an and-1, going ahead by two. Castro dribbles away the time before Blatche gets blocked at the three-point line with barely a second left. Palestine taps the ball out in the out-of-bounds play and seals what is probably the biggest upset in FIBA Asia Championship history.

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Remembering Saudi Arabia: Why Gilas 3.0 Can’t Afford To Look Beyond the First Round

When the 2013 FIBA Asia Championships was held in Manila, the Philippines chose to be in Group A with Chinese-Taipei, Jordan and Saudi Arabia. Among the three teams, Chinese-Taipei was considered, hands-down, Gilas’ most dangerous opponent. Jordan was also a cause for concern, especially with naturalized Jimmy Baxter in good form. As for Saudi Arabia? Well, everyone agreed that they would be the whipping boy of the group.
With Gilas playing Saudi Arabia on the first day of competitions, the general consensus was that the Philippine team would be getting a practice game right before the “serious” games.
And then, the game was actually played. Maybe the Gilas staff underestimated the Saudi players. Maybe they didn’t scout them well enough. Maybe the Saudis improved immensely from when they first qualified for the FIBA Asia Championships.
Whatever the reason may be, that first quarter of play put tiny icicles of doubt into the hearts of Gilas supporters everywhere, as Gilas looked shell shocked at the fast-breaking, board-crashing opponents. By the end of the first quarter, Saudi Arabia had a 2point lead, 16-14, and had put a dent in the Philippines’ mystique of invincibility.

To the credit of Gilas, they recovered pretty quickly and outscored the Saudis 12-21 in the second quarter. They also won the game by 12, a margin that many felt was way to little for a team that was supposedly heads and shoulders above its previous incarnation, the same team that beat Iran with Haddadi, Bahrami, and Kamrani in its lineup at Jones Cup held just the year before. 

My personal point of view was yes, we did take Saudi Arabia lightly. Gilas players did not have a clue who they should be guarding tightly at the three point line and who they should sag off on. They didn’t know who likes driving and popping, who has a tendency to cheat on D, who they can exploit on the block, who is a threat from the corner… These are the things that come with proper scouting, proper game planning, and even proper game management.
Of the three, we are probably most familiar with Hong Kong. Which means there aren’t any excuses for not taking their game apart. Duncan Reid, Lo Yi Ting, Chun Wai Wong, and Siu Wing Chan should all be watched closely, as any of them could break out with a monster game.
Palestine and Kuwait last played in the 2014 Asian Games and, to their credit, gave a good accounting of themselves. Kuwait has players who can score both inside and outside while Palestine is more a predatory team with a still developing half court game. Both squads are very tough and rugged (as most Middle Eastern teams are) but can be pressured into making mistakes due to inexperience with top-notch competition.
Again, the main problem Gilas will have is their unfamiliarity with their competition. Game tapes and scouts information should be a priority for Gilas as the worst thing that could happen is for us to be on the wrong side of a historic upset.  
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Gilas 3.0: Smaller, Faster, Nastier.

We are one week away from the FIBA-ASIA Championships and by now, the lineup for Gilas Pilipinas has been all but finalized.

Which means it’s time for us to analyze exactly what the strengths and weaknesses of Gilas 3.0 are.
SPEED – They say “speed kills”. In the case of Gilas 3.0’s upcoming opponents, this may actually prove to be true. The addition of players like Terence Romeo, Calvin Abueva and Matt Ganuelas-Rosser to cat-quick players like Jayson Castro and Gabe Norwood has given Gilas 3.0 end-to-end speed that promises to give other Asian teams a lot of trouble. So far, only Japan and maybe South Korea seem to have the quickness needed to keep up with Gilas.

ATHLETICISM – Matt Ganuelas-Rosser, Terence Romeo, Jayson Castro, Calvin Abueva, Gabe Norwood and Marc Pingris are all above average athletes. Against the likes of Iran and China, Gilas would really have to rely on this athleticism to offset the other team’s considerable height advantage. It would be interesting to see MGR/Norwood take on Iran’s Kamrani (a very strong and athletic point guard) in an effort to disrupt the Iranian system.
TOUGHNESSS – Old hands Asi Taulava and Sonny Thoss together with new recruits Calvin Abueva and, weirdly enough, JC Intal showed in the Jones Cup that they can be as physical as they need to be. The game versus Russia was a great case study, as well as the game versus Iran (even though Gilas lost that one). Taulava and Thoss never backed down against taller, heftier opponents, who needed to physically manhandle the duo to get their points. Even then, only Haddadi was truly too much for the pair. Abueva was a revelation as well, as his peskiness (often to the dismay of his PBA opponents) translated well in the international game.
HEIGHT – This goes without saying. Even with the still rotund Andray Blatche on the roster, we will be among the smallest teams in the tournament. Ranidel de Ocampo is a great stretch four in the PBA but in FIBA Asia tourneys, he’ll be guarded by quick small forwards who’ll still be more than a couple of inches taller. And that’s going to be case in every position, except for when Blatche is in the lineup.
SHOOTING – Gilas 3.0 has one certified shooter: Dondon Hontiveros. The others are all scorers who can hit jumpers on occasion. Gabe Norwood has been particularly bad lately, Ganuelas-Rosser has barely taken any, Abueva and Intal are unreliable and RDO still has not recovered his touch after missing time with an injury.
COHESION – Gilas 3.0 is racing against the clock, in terms of preparation time. We can’t ignore the fact that the team has improved immensely in the last 3 weeks or so but we also can’t ignore the fact that every other national team has had more preparation time than Gilas had. The chemistry is much better now than during the Estonia tournament you have to wonder how much better they would be if they had 3 months to prepare instead of just basically a month and a half.
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