MANILA, Philippines – Gilas Pilipinas head coach Tab Baldwin is keeping the door open for LA Tenorio, June Mar Fajardo and Marc Pingris – but not for long.
The American-New Zealander coach tasked to form a competitive national men’s basketball team made it clear that as long as the players can catch up, and there is still a need for what they can offer, Gilas will welcome them.
Veteran guard Tenorio, who took a leave of absence from Gilas due to fatigue and health reasons, can still change his mind if he wants to. But he has to do it soon.
“If he came to me tomorrow and said he’d be ready to go, he’d be here [in practice],” Baldwin responded when asked how long he is willing to wait for the Barangay Ginebra playmaker. “If he came to me in 10 days and said I’m ready to go, it would depend a lot on what’s happened with this pool.
“He’s got to resolve some issues within himself. If he feels his form isn’t at this level right now then he has to think about that. And he has to make a decision,” Baldwin explained further.
“There really isn’t an answer to that. It’s kind of going to be how I feel this team is progressing, understanding what LA’s strengths are, what he brings to a team, and his mentality. So it’s an indefinite answer to that question.”
(IN PHOTOS: Andray Blatche returns to Gilas practice)
Tenorio, 31, announced last week his decision to beg off from the national team after non-stop play since 2012.
He admitted he is no longer in his best form and he may not play well for Gilas, or for his mother ballcub Ginebra when the new PBA season rolls around come October – barely two weeks after the 2015 FIBA Asia Championship wraps up.
“Feeling ko ngayon kung maglalaro ako sa national team and then dire-diretso ulit pagdating ng season, I think it’s going to be unfair for both parties,” Tenorio said in an interview with Dennis Principe on Sports Chat.
(I feel that if I play for the national team and then go straight to the next PBA season, I think it’s going to be unfair for both parties.)
Baldwin shared he spoke to Tenorio previously and is not actively convincing him to reconsider. Baldwin said he has no intention of forcing the 2012 Jones Cup Finals MVP into anything he is uncomfortable with.
“I’m confident in whatever LA decides. If he decides not to play then I think he’s making that decision in the best interest of Gilas and not just himself,” Baldwin said after Gilas’ first full practice Monday night, August 3.
“I trust and respect the man. Would I like to have him? I’d love to have him. But we’d live with the decision he makes.”
The same condition stands for Fajardo and Pingris.
Back-to-back PBA MVP Fajardo is nursing plantar fasciitis in both feet. The injury, which causes pain in the heel due to inflammation of the plantar fascia tissue, has been nagging Fajardo since the PBA playoffs.
“We’re hopeful that June Mar’s injury resolves itself in time,” said Baldwin. “If he could play, I’m sure he’d be here. If his injury is bothering him to the degree that I know plantar fasciitis can cause problems, then he’s not going to help us out. That injury has to resolve itself favorably for him to be able to come in here and help us out.”
Pingris, on the other hand, had a planned trip to France and will return by August 12. The 33-year old hustle guy was open to giving up his spot on the pool but Baldwin, as is the case for Tenorio and Fajardo, will only make a final decision when Pingris shows up for practice.
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“With Marc it’s really going to be a case of how far down the track we are when he is available, which I believe is around the 12th or 13th,” said Baldwin.
“If I feel we’ve assembled a pretty strong team at that point and we have the pieces in place, then Marc will have to miss out. But if I feel there’s a need for him and he can come in and make us a better team, even that late, then I’ll make that decision at the time.”
(READ: Blatche: ‘China is a strong team and so are we’)
All 3 players were part of the Gilas roster that snagged the silver in the 2013 FIBA Asia Championship in Manila and then competed in the 2014 FIBA World Cup.
There is no word yet on the status of Talk ’N Text big Kelly Williams, who hurt his knee at the start of Monday night’s practice. (READ: List of PBA players requested for Gilas revealed)
This Gilas 3.0 is set to see action at this year’s continental championship to be held in Changsha, Hunan in China from September 23 to October 3. The final 12-man line-up will be selected from the 17-man pool that includes Troy Rosario. – Rappler.com
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