MANILA, Philippines – An exciting clash of the giants between the 7-foot-2 Hamed Haddadi of Iran and the 6-foot-11 June Mar Fajardo of the Philippines won’t materialize this week, as Iran’s national basketball team visits for a couple of tune-up games with Gilas Pilipinas.
The Iranians arrived Saturday night, June 4, without the towering Haddadi, who remains part of the team going into the 2016 FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament from July 4 to 10. Iran will be playing in Turin, Italy.
“He had some personal thing to take care of. He’s not going to come to the Philippines,” Iran head coach Dirk Bauermann told reporters Sunday, June 5, at Hotel Novotel in Araneta Center.
“Whether or not he’s going to be able to join us in China, which is where we go from here, we don’t know yet.”
Fajardo and Haddadi have already met in the 2013 FIBA Asia Championship here. However, Fajardo was only a budding big man back then, playing limited minutes under then Gilas coach Chot Reyes’ dribble-drive system.
The 26-year-old Fajardo has vastly improved since then, adding experience at the 2014 FIBA World Cup experience, and two straight PBA MVP trophies. He has ripened into a solid big man and would’ve been a worthy match-up against the 31-year-old Haddadi, a former NBA player as well.
Also not in Manila are the other two making up Iran’s “Big 3”, forward Nikkhah Bahrami and guard Mehdi Kamrani. They will be missing the Qualifier as well.
“Their status is they're not playing for the team this summer,” Dirk Bauermann explained. “Because, like I told you before, we were the oldest team last year in the Asian championships and we just had to find a way to give the young players an opportunity to develop and grow.”
“We felt this summer would be a perfect opportunity and perfect time to do that. And so far it's worked out pretty well.”
Gilas and Iran will play two tune-up games on Tuesday and Wednesday, with the first not open to the public. Fans can watch the second tune-up game on Wednesday, June 8 at 7 pm.