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MANILA, Philippines – Naturalized center Andray Blatche fired a 3-pointer from the left corner off a Gary David pass to end an offensive set they were learning. It was short and was way off to the right. Blatche asked for the ball and tried again from the same spot. This time he airballed it.
Blatche returned to practice for national men’s basketball team Gilas Pilipinas on Monday night, August 3, at the Meralco Gym and it quickly became clear: the former NBA cager was out of shape.
“Most of my time was spent with my mom. She was fighting cancer,” Blatche said, sharing the reason he was unable to workout religiously since last seeing action with the Xinjiang Flying Tigers in the Chinese Basketball Association early this year. “I had a lot of time away from basketball because I had to be there for her.”
The 6-foot-11 Blatche admitted the most workout he got was through pick-up games back home, and it was evident Monday night as he was a step slow and easily gassed. However, Blatche assured all he needs is one month to be fully ready for the 2015 FIBA Asia Championship from September 23 to October 3 in Changsha, Hunan in China.
“I just need this month of August and I’m ready,” he declared, as sweat dripped down the side of his face after what Gilas Pilipinas head coach Tab Baldwin described as light training. “That’s all I need. Just give me this whole month of August and I’m ready.”
Blatche arrived late Sunday night and his presence at practice dispelled concerns over his availability for Gilas Pilipinas. There were reports the Flying Tigers did not release him to play for the Philippines.
“I don’t know where that came from,” he said of the matter. “They never told me I couldn’t play. I don’t even know how that got started.”
Andray Blatche and Asi Taulava doing drills last night #Gilas @rapplerdotcom pic.twitter.com/TQLENkR9QL — Jane Bracher (@janebracher) August 4, 2015
‘I’m going to leave everything on the court’
With his availability certain, Gilas looks to surround him with the best local players. But the pool already encountered a number of problems before training camp even started, with key players June Mar Fajardo and Marc Pingris doubtful to make the line-up due to an injury and a scheduled trip abroad, respectively.
This was further compounded by guard LA Tenorio begging off citing fatigue and health reasons due to non-stop playing in the PBA and for the national team since 2012.
The pool hit another snag just as Monday night’s practice began – PBA veteran Kelly Williams hurt his knee when he slipped during a drill. He appeared to be in immense pain and was taken to the hospital for an MRI.
“Will I like them (Pingris, Fajardo, Tenorio) back? Yes. I played with them before,” Blatche admitted, adding he’s looking forward to progressing from small talk and getting to know his new teammates better.
“But whatever their situation is and we can’t have them here, my prayers go out to them. They’re family. We need other guys to step up.”
The pool is comprised mostly of veteran players above the age of 30 – guys like Williams, Asi Taulava, Dondon Hontiveros, Ranidel de Ocampo, Gary David, Sonny Thoss, JC Intal, Pingris, and possibly Tenorio.
That cast is shored up by Blatche, Fajardo, Jayson Castro, Gabe Norwood, Terrence Romeo, Calvin Abueva, Matt Ganuelas-Rosster and the youngest of all, Troy Rosario.
Blatche knows the pressure will fall on him, especially after a dominant 2014 FIBA World Cup performance. But that doesn’t mean he’ll change how he plays.
“I feel I’m going to do the same thing,” he said. “I’m going to leave everything on the court.” – Rappler.com