Gilas call-out on courtPhoto via TJ Manotoc
MANILA (UPDATED) - Confusion turned to disappointment and disappointment soon turned to anger as the much-hyped "Last Home Stand" featuring Gilas Pilipinas and several NBA stars failed to live up to expectations of basketball fans Tuesday at the SMART Araneta Coliseum.
Thinking they were going to witness an exhibition match between the Philippine national team and a group of NBA players led by Kawhi Leonard, James Harden and Damian Lillard, many fans bought tickets starting at P750 which went as high as more than P23,000 for the charity event.
But the disappointment started before the event had even begun, when it was announced that All-Stars Blake Griffin and Paul George could not make it to the contest. A video of Griffin was shown, where the LA Clippers forward apologized to the fans and told them to hold on to their tickets.
Still, there was an atmosphere of anticipation at the Araneta Coliseum when the members of the national team were introduced, and the cheers grew louder when the NBA stars came out. The loudest cheers were for Harden, who was making his fourth trip to Manila, and Leonard, who in June won the NBA Finals MVP award.
The anticipation soon turned to confusion, however, when Gilas Pilipinas coach Chot Reyes announced that they were going to witness an "inside look" at how the national team prepares for games - including the upcoming FIBA World Cup - with help from the NBA stars and skills coach John Lucas.
PLDT's Ariel Fermin also announced that they will offer a refund if the fans were dissatisfied with what they saw, but also reminded the crowd that the event was for the benefit of charities as well as victims of the recent typhoons.
It soon became clear that there would be no game at all as Lucas had both the Gilas players and the NBA players warming up, and then going through simple 3-on-3 drills.
The fans inside the coliseum were clearly unimpressed with what was happening on the court, even when stars like DeMar DeRozan, Kyle Lowry, and Tyson Chandler showed off their skills. High-flying dunks from DeRozan and Terrence Ross were met with sporadic cheers.
The boos started raining down about midway through the event, with all the players going through the motions of the drills and the fans realized that they were watching a glorified training session instead of an actual game, as they had expected.
There were some bright moments like when Lowry put Gilas' LA Tenorio on skates and blew by him for a lay-up, and when Brandon Jennings nailed a difficult step-back jumper over the outstretched arms of Gabe Norwood.
The loudest cheers came when the NBA players threw basketballs to the fans during a break in a training session. It was followed by a high-flying dunk show that briefly energized the restless audience.
The best efforts of the hosts to pump up the crowd proved fruitless, as the fans continued to boo. One man in the upper sections was heard shouting, "Ibalik niyo ang pera ko," and by the time the event wrapped up, chants of "refund, refund" rang through the coliseum.
As fans swarmed the exits of Araneta, it was announced that the second day of the "Last Home Stand" - for it indeed was announced as a two-day event - had been cancelled. The organizers were also offering refund of tickets. A huge crowd soon formed near the exits as people jostled to have their names and contact details listed down.
They dispersed when it was announced that details of the refund will be given online, along with a hotline.
Yet long after the event was over, some fans milled around the Araneta Coliseum, looking at the merchandise on sale. One man who bought Upper B tickets worth P2,500 pointed to a huge tarpaulin promoting the event, hanging over the entrances.
"Oo nga naman," he said, pointing to the tarp. "Wala naman silang sinabi na game."