Why Andray Blatche might not play in the 2014 Asian Games

Enzo Flojo
Why Andray Blatche might not play in the 2014 Asian Games
Naturalized Gilas big Andray Blatche is expected to provide size and experience that the team needs but fine print in the Asian Games rules may keep him out of Incheon

MANILA, Philippines – Former Washington Wizards and Brooklyn Nets center Andray Blatche has had an up-and-down career in the the NBA. He’s had a colorful history both on and off the court. He’s also had flashes of brilliance.

Now, however, right smack in the middle of the 2014 offseason, Blatche still has no NBA team. After refusing to re-sign with Brooklyn, he has not been able to receive any satisfactory offers. 

The only team he has now, in fact, is the national team of the country that recently adopted him — Gilas Pilipinas. 

Blatche is under contract with the Philippine national team for the 2014 FIBA World Cup and up until the 2014 Asian Games. Barring any unforeseen developments, Blatche should be a go in Spain, but his presence in Incheon may not be as guaranteed. (RELATED: Andray Blatche’s journey from New York to Gilas Pilipinas)

It doesn’t really have anything to do with his not having an NBA team yet. Someone like him has a fair chance of landing a contract, especially if he performs well for Gilas.

The wrinkle is neither in Blatche’s capacity to play nor within the framework of Gilas. The potential roadblock is in a couple of provisions in the governing rules of the Asian Games, which can be found in the the Olympic Council of Asia (OCA)  Constitution and Rules

In particular, we have to look at Articles 49 and 50, which can be found in Chapter 3, entitled The OCA Games.

Remember that the OCA rules are principally based on the charter of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and not on FIBA’s eligibility rules. Even if Blatche, or any other naturalized player for that matter, clears FIBA eligibility standards, he might not be able to play in the Asian Games if he doesn’t meet the OCA’s own set of guidelines. 

And here are those guidelines. 

Here are the pertinent provisions of Article 49 — The Eligibility Code:

By-Law/Sub-section #2 to Article 49:

“A competitor who is a national of two (2) or more countries at the same time may represent either one (1) of them, as they may elect. However after having represented one country in any Olympic, Asian continental, regional, or world championships recognized by the relevant IF (International Federation), he/she may not represent another country unless he/she meets the conditions set forth in the sub-section below that apply to persons who have changed their nationality or acquired a new nationality.”

By-Law/Sub-section #3 to Article 49:

“A competitor who has represented one country in any of the Olympic Games, OCA GAMES, continental, regional, or world championships recognized by the relevant IF, and who has changed their nationality or acquired a new nationality, shall not participate in the OCA GAMES to represent their new country until three years after such change or acquisition.” 

My interpretation

Blatche clears these provisions with no problem at all. He has never represented the United States in any international competition. He is now also a Filipino. He chose to represent the Philippines in the 2014 FIBA World Cup. The “three years waiting period after changing/acquiring a new nationality” should not apply to him. Bottom-line: Blatch plays. 

Pretty clear so far, right? 

Now brace yourself for the tricky part. Aside from an “Eligibility Code,” the OCA Constitution and Rules also contains “Necessary Conditions for representing a Country.” 

Wait, isn’t that supposed to be the same as the Eligibility Code? That’s the part that confuses me.

Here are the pertinent provisions of Article 50 — “Necessary Conditions for representing a Country:

Sub-sections #2 & #3 to Article 50:

“2. Competitors will be eligible if they comply with the following qualifications:

a. That they were born in the country they represent;

b. That they are nationals or citizens of the country they represent and have lived there continuously for a period of not less than three years;

c. That they have become naturalized in the country they represent and have permanent residence there. 

3. Competitors born outside Asia cannot be qualified unless they meet conditions in 3 b & c, where applicable.” 

And here, folks, is where we find the potential roadblock to Blatche’s participation. 

Blatche was not born in the Philippines. He was born in New York, USA. He is now a citizen by virtue of being naturalized, but he does not have permanent residence here. Furthermore, he has definitely not lived here “for a period of not less than three years.” Bottom-line: Blatche will not be allowed to play. 

Two sets of provisions in the same piece of literature. Two articles with seemingly conflicting implications.  

As of this writing, one country has already acted upon these confusing regulations. 

When Korea’s basketball bigwigs backed out of their efforts to naturalize many-time Korean Basketball League (KBL) import Aaron Haynes for the Incheon games, they used the provisions in Article 50 as their basis. They didn’t want to naturalize a guy and then find out, quite embarrassingly so, that he wouldn’t be allowed to play anyway. Haynes was clearly disappointed by the turn of events, but he couldn’t do anything about it.  

Strangely enough, however, Haynes might have had a case, at least for the three years residency thing, since he’s been an import in the KBL since December 2008. He has played for the Seoul Samsung Thunders, Ulsan Mobis Phoebus, Changwon LG Sakers, and Seoul SK Knights. He helped Ulsan win the 2010 KBL title. Back in 2011, Haynes also had short stints with the Jilin Tigers of the CBA and Lebanese club team Sagesse, but he and his family have been in Korea for practically 5+ years. 

Despite that, Korea’s basketball leaders deemed he wouldn’t be able to make the grade in the Asian Games. 

What more for Blatche? I don’t question the big fella’s willingness to play for Gilas; I question how the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) will be able to have Blatche cleared given the contrasting provisions in Articles 49 and 50. 

This, of course, doesn’t apply to Blatche. The eligibility of Lebanon’s Loren Woods, Jordan’s Rasheim Wright, Kazakhstan’s Jerry Johnson, Qatar’s Jarvis Hayes, Bahrain’s CJ Giles, and Taiwan’s Quincy Davis, among others, will have to be scrutinized using these same rules.  

Woods was naturalized in in 2011 and has, generally speaking, been living in Lebanon since that time. He will probably be cleared.

Wright was naturalized in 2007, didn’t play in the 2010 Asian Games, and doesn’t hold permanent residency in Jordan (he still lives in Pennsylvania). Had he played for Jordan in 2010, he would’ve been cleared in Incheon, but even he may not be allowed to suit up because of Article 50.

Jerry Johnson was naturalized in 2013, but he has lived in Kazakhstan since 2011. He might be eligible to play.

Jarvis Hayes was naturalized in 2013 and doesn’t even play club ball in Qatar. Article 50 might prevent him from playing.

CJ Giles was also naturalized in 2013 and plays professionally in Bahrain’s pro league. He might also be ineligible. 

Quincy Davis was naturalized in 2013, too, but the 31-year old has been living in Taiwan since late 2011. He might be able to squeeze through. 

With Blatche healthy and playing solid ball, Gilas should be an even stronger side than it was in the 2013 FIBA Asia Championships in Manila. The reality, however, is that, unless the SBP can really clarify things with the OCA, Blatche’s status is up in the air.  

At the very worst, we’ll still have Marcus Douthit, who was naturalized in 2011 and has been living here since. He’s a sure thing, but at 34 years old, he’s definitely at the tail-end of his international basketball career. –

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