GILAS PILIPINAS | WHY JORDAN CLARKSON IS VITAL TO THE CAUSE
Gilas Pilipinas is in a slump and you can't solely blame this on Chot Reyes or Tab Baldwin for that matter. Again, it's the players that need to have focus here and not a couple of men on the sidelines. Praise Tab Baldwin all you want, but there is a reason why he messed up a lot of relationships during his stay here. We have seen imports from all eras thinking they are bigger and better in all aspects of life.
And I guess there is a reason why coaches like Tim Cone and Jong Uichico are assistant coaches but never the head coach of Gilas Pilipinas. It takes a lot of effort to please Filipinos and I guess Chot Reyes is the craziest among their bunch.
They are the crucial point of any basketball team.
In 1998, Asians are scared of Allan Caidic's offensive prowess because even with the Chinese and the Koreans and despite The Triggerman at that point on the wrong side of 30, he is still a feared long-distance assassin. The same can be said with Jimmy Alapag and Jayson Castro - two players that can deal damage when the game is on the line.
When we played in the 2014 FIBA World Cup, Gilas Pilipinas had Andray Blatche - a former NBA starter who posted modest all-star numbers during his stints with the Washington Wizards and Brooklyn Nets. Yes, he would often throw the occasional triple and would have turnovers because he wanted to dribble the ball like a point guard, but when he's inside the shaded area, he is almost unstoppable.
The same can be said with Jordan Clarkson. Gilas Pilipinas is giving him the leeway not only to score at will but also because his name is credible enough to strike fear in others. Back then, it would have been ideal for Gilas to have a naturalized big man. However, with the exception of Blatche and in some ways, Marcus Douthit, none of the big men we got are intimidating enough to scare other teams.
Just consider the 2022 SEA Games as an example. Our naturalized big man back then is Mo Tautuaa. While Tautuaa has posted modest PBA numbers, you can't blame Reyes for putting June Mar Fajardo over him. Marcus Douthit, Christian Standhardinger, and Ange Kouame are okay but they weren't as imposing as compared to Blatche.
I am certain that we could have won the tourney if we had gunners like Justin Brownlee, Stanley Pringle, and even Chris Newsome and Jamie Malonzo at his disposal.
And this is the same thing I'll make for Baldwin. He wanted to use college players instead of established folks. Basically, they want the kids to face established players from other countries. Yes, I get this is vital but he basically sent Gilas Pilipinas to rebuilding mode with this decision and I am kind of surprised that the SBP believed that this is a good idea. Yes, there are a lot of aging players but he could have kept the likes of Terrence Romeo, CJ Perez, Robert Bolick, Japeth Aguilar, and the just 32-year-old June Mar Fajardo in the mix. To keep things in perspective, Ranidel De Ocampo was already 32 during the 2013 Gilas versus Korea game. Yes, JMF had an injury that forced him to miss an entire PBA season but just look at him now.
And what's his excuse for not using CJ Perez and Bolick anyway? PBA schedule? With how the PBA is at the moment, the last thing they need is a negative situation.
So with Clarkson as the biggest name and with Kai Sotto as the main selling point (we need to have him as an NBA veteran, even for a couple of games), this could get our claws back. Lebanon is an easy excuse because, during our rise in the mid-2010s, they were struggling with the retirement of Fadi El-Khatib and the political unrest in their country. Losing to Japan and Indonesia is mind-boggling though. Now that we have players like Sotto and Fajardo in the middle, we can get a naturalized player that would score for us.
This is what Clarkson needs to be for Gilas Pilipinas. We need to have an array of awesome combo guards and defensive specialists so he can just concentrate on offense. I wouldn't mind reactivating Gabe Norwood or at least having someone like Don Trollano. And if Clarkson is busy with his NBA commitments, then how about they check on how Filipino is Sedrick Barefield?
Even if he's 34 years old, have someone just have Justin Brownlee in the naturalization discussion and if there are better options that won't just leave like he's some sort of mercenary, then let's opt to use that fellow.
What's the status of Jalen Green?
As I said, Clarkson checks out all our needs. He is an offensive-minded player with a Kobe Bryant mindset when the game is on the line and he's not going to hinder the development of our big men. By no means he is a savior to our cause but he is a step in the right direction.
And it's not like our situation is THAT problematic. Take the case of Gilas Pilipinas versus Saudi Arabia as an excuse. Whether we have Clarkson or not, the team will always have a tendency to have a great second half which we will use as fuel to close out the games.
And by the way, getting Chris Newsome, Jamie Malonzo, Roosevelt Adams, and Maverick Ahanmisi is another positive step. This means we have a mix of talent from the Asian leagues like Dwight Ramos, Bobby Ray Parks, Kiefer Ravena, and Thirdy Ravena as well as PBA standouts whose gameplay is still putting fear in other Asian squads.