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Misfiring Blatche will get better, says Baldwin

GETTING IN SHAPE. There's no need for panic with Blatche's play, says Baldwin.

Photo by Josh Albelda/Rappler

MANILA, Philippines – Andray Blatche didn’t exactly have an inspiring return to action for Gilas Pilipinas in the start of their MVP Cup Campaign. Clearly still out of game shape, the former NBA player misfired from the field all game long and finished with 12 points on 4-of-14 shooting, including a 1-of-8 performance from downtown.

It was Blatche’s first game back with the Philippine men’s national basketball team after taking a leave of absence prior to the 37th William Jones Cup as he attended his uncle’s funeral and take care of his ailing mother.

Gilas head coach Tab Baldwin was aware of his big man’s struggles on the court, but still remains positive he will get in good enough shape for the 2015 FIBA Asia Championship.

“Andray didn’t hit his shots, but it’s coming… and he’s got to shoot his way into shape and run his way into shape, so that’s why we left him out there for the minutes that we did,” said Baldwin, whose team took down the Talk ’N Text Tropang Texters, 93-77.

“And that’s normal, guys, so don’t be surprised,” said Baldwin. “Don’t make a big story out of that. That’s normal.”

Blatche subbed out late in the first quarter and looked out of breath. He also looked fatigued in different instances throughout the rest of the game.

“He’s had time off and he’s got to get a feel back and he’s played the game so long and at such a high level that it will come back to him pretty easily, but he needs these minutes; he needs this time,” said Baldwin.

One thing Blatche didn’t do well too was running the floor in transition. Considering Gilas has a lot of guards who can score well on the break, Baldwin admits that’s one aspect his naturalized player needs to improve on leading up to FIBA Asia.

“Andray’s offense has got to find its rhythm and he’s gotta get involved in the running game,” said the 57-year-old Baldwin. “You can see the pace of our game was pretty high tonight with Jayson [Castro] and Terrence [Romeo] pushing the ball, and we had wings running.”

The head coach, however, was complimentary of how the 6-foot-11 big man performed on the other end of the court.

“Some good, some not so good,” he graded Blatche’s performance. “He’ll shoot the ball better than he shot it tonight. His transition isn’t there yet. He’s really not running the lanes for us, but one thing that you don’t see a lot with Andray is his defensive intelligence.

“He anchors the middle of our defense and he gives us that big presence that we didn’t have in the Jones Cup. And it was there tonight; it was tough for Talk ’N Text to get anything in and around the basket.”

The national team will be back in action on Saturday, September 12, when they face the Wellington Saints from New Zealand.

“I think New Zealand wants to win the tournament so we should get a tough contest from them tomorrow night,” Baldwin said about the competition. – Rappler.com