Finally, some resemblance of real balance in the Gilas lineup

The struggles of the Philippine National basketball team during the first two games of the World Cup Games qualifiers may have unlocked a development that we want to see: a real balance of contributors from the entire line-up.

The role reversal of June Mar Fajardo and Andre Blatche in the Taiwan game and Mathew Wright’s emergence in the Japan game was a fresh sight that might bode well for the Gilas boys as they go deep into the qualifiers.

The Philippine National basketball team was far from being dominant in the first two games of the World Cup Games qualifiers. It was, in fact, our naturalized Filipino import, Andre Blatche, who struggled big time against Taiwan in the second game that the Filipinos almost cough up.

In the past, if a foreign-born player integrated into a Filipino team struggles, it is almost a death sentence to that team’s campaign. Only a few teams are able to hold on to winning records when the “imports” bomb out.

What happened during the last two games might show a better consequence than the 2-0 win-loss record that Gilas currently have, having won both tightly fought contest. That is they can still win even if Blatch has an off night and their best outside sniper, Terrence Romeo, is on the mend.

In fairness, it would be outrageous to ask for nearly perfect performances from a particular player, including imports. Well, someone will always have a bad night in certain days.

That is why Fajardo’s emergence as a capable source of offense during times of drought, like when Blatche could not figure out how to get going, is a big desirable trait in the Gilas line-up.

It is a big step in avoiding being overly depended of Blatche, Jayson Castro and Gabe Norwood at all times. Sure, Castro and Norwood are as steady as ever but they will always have nights when they will be out of sync, just like Blatche had one.

A second, third option will go a long, long way in Gilas’ world campaign.

Wright is now showing Gilas could count on another body for those long bombs if Romeo is down. Calvin Abueva should show his defense can shot down the opponent’s best offensive player so Norwood can hit the bench for a rest.

Raymund Almazan showed he is an option at the four or five that can be a threat in and out in another tournament.

This is what this team needs in upending other nations, balance in contributions from different positions.

Time and time again, it has been proven that the strategy of simply shooting it out with the Koreans is a dumb idea because the Philippine outside artillery and loose ball recovery is still far inferior than them.

They could not also simply rely on small ball alone against taller teams like Iran and China because they simply cannot afford to be outrebounded when their inconsistent outside shooting becomes cold.

That, is the difficulty of a team like the Philippines whose outside snipping is not consistently going in the basket.

The only way to beat the Koreans is taking control of the paint and manufacturing some buckets in there as shown in the previous victory here in Manila, with Blatche in the line-up.

So the Philippines need to have some functional big bodies in there. This writer is one among those who wishes Greg Slaughter comes to his senses and try out Gilas. I’m sure it would be beneficial to his improvement as a player, just like Fajardo, who seldom took the floor during his first stint going to a perennial PBA MVP contender.

If the Philippines would have a chance to beat the likes of Australia, China, and Iran, they should have small, quick bodies who can consistently sink long bombs.

Having Terrence Romeo, or Jimmy Alapag, or Jeff Chan, or Allan Caidic in the ‘80s and 90s, is a big luxury but a single threat is easier to defuse.

It couldn’t be just one outside threat. There should be multiple sources of threats, in and out.

Gilas has to continue figuring out how to get other teams believe that every member of the team on the floor is a threat by getting consistent contributions from them, be it on offense or defense, and improve their outside snipping to a respectable consistency level for the Philippines to become a perennial contender for a slot in the World level games.



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