Blatche a 'game changer' for Gilas, says Guiao
MANILA, Philippines – Gilas Pilipinas head coach Yeng Guiao sees the returning Andray Blatche as a "game changer" for the team in back-to-back away matches in the final window of the World Cup qualifiers.
The 6-foot-10 big man, who missed the last two windows, will once again reinforce the Filipinos as a designated naturalized player when they tangle with Qatar and Kazakhstan this February – both must-win games.
"I don't think there's anybody in the Kazakhstan team or the Qatar team that can stop him one-on-one," Guiao told reporters.
"We saw what his abilities are. He's an inside, outside guy. He's a very versatile player who can shoot and who can pass. So he's going to be the game changer."
Arriving in the Philippines on Friday, February 1, Blatche had already buckled down to work with Rain or Shine and NLEX before seeing action in his first official practice back with the national team on Monday.
It didn't take long for the 32-year-old to accustom himself to Guiao's read-and-react system.
"I think he's just doing fine with the absorption of the system and the patterns and getting to know the rest of the guys," Guiao said.
But aside from the skill set that a legitimate NBA player could offer, Blatche provides a certain kind of calm for the Nationals – a much-needed feeling for a team that has its backs against the wall.
Gilas, which resides at 4th place in Group F with a 5-5 card behind Australia (9-1), Iran (7-3) and Japan (6-4), couldn't afford another loss since only the top 3 are assured of World Cup berths.
"He's bringing in a lot of confidence, he's really lifting the morale of the team just because of his abilities," Guiao added.
Blatche will be training with the national team until February 11 before he goes back to the Tianjin Gold Lions in the Chinese Basketball Association.
He will then rejoin Gilas starting February 16 for the final stages of its buildup against Qatar and Kazakhstan on February 21 and 24, respectively. – Rappler.com