MANILA, Philippines – The Philippines' buildup for the 2018 Asian Games was, to say the least, like a roller-coaster ride that was chock-full of surprising twists and turns.
In May – months before the infamous Philippines-Australia brawl – the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) and the PBA decided that the country will send a pro team to the quadrennial showpiece.
Since the Governors' Cup coincided with the Asiad, which was held in August in Indonesia, both sides agreed that only the core of the TNT KaTropa and Andray Blatche will represent the country in Indonesia.
Two weeks after, the lineup was finalized by adding Gilas cadets Kobe Paras, Ricci Rivero and Abu Tratter in the fold.
Everything was set for the Asian Games until the brawl happened.
Blatche, Terrence Romeo, Jayson Castro, RR Pogoy and Troy Rosario, who were all supposed to see action in Jakarta, were suspended by FIBA for their roles in the melee.
"I would assume if there are sanctions and then that's the first international competition that we join, it's a value question, it's a moral question," SBP president Al Panlilio then said.
Since the initial plan for the Asiad already looked far from happening, Rain or Shine said it was open to lending its core players instead.
On July 24, Plan B slowly came to fruition as Yeng Guiao was named head coach for the Asian Games mission, reuniting him with his former Elasto Painters players.
However, it didn't take long before things took a completely different route with the SBP shockingly pulling the Philippines out from the continental meet two days after.
According to the SBP, participating in the Asiad "would not be optimal" since the national team and the federation needed to regroup and prepare for their appeal on FIBA's brawl sanctions.
SBP Statement on Philippine Participation in the 2018 Asian Games pic.twitter.com/bYJkGEi74R — SBP (@officialSBPinc) July 26, 2018
For a basketball-crazed nation, the move was obviously met with criticism especially since the Philippines joined in all but one edition of the Asian Games since its inaugural year in 1951.
With the incessant bashing, it didn't take long before local sports officials succumbed to public pressure.
By August 5, the SBP backtracked its decision and announced a Philippine basketball team will see action in the Asiad after all.
"[W]e realized there was a strong clamor from our basketball fans and since we are the house of basketball, we need to really take a look at that clamor," said Philippine Olympic Committee chief Ricky Vargas.
With barely two weeks before their first Asiad game on August 16, Guiao looked to bank on his familiarity with his old reliables and the hopes of NBA player Jordan Clarkson reinforcing the squad. – Rappler.com
Delfin Dioquino dreamt of being a PBA player, but he did not have the skills to make it. So he pursued the next best thing to being an athlete – to write about them. He took up journalism at the University of Santo Tomas and joined Rappler as soon as he graduated in 2017.