FIBA Asia tourney sked imperils PBA stars stint

By Nelson Beltran, The Philippine Star

Posted at Nov 28 2012 09:32 AM | Updated as of Nov 28 2012 11:21 PM

MANILA, Philippines - Smart Gilas Pilipinas yesterday found itself in a quandary as FIBA Asia scheduled its 2013 championship on Aug. 1-11 in Beirut, Lebanon, putting in disarray the training calendar of the national team.

For one, Game Seven of the PBA Governors Cup finals is set July 28, meaning most, if not all, PBA players have no chance at joining the national team in the crucial stage of its buildup for the Asian joust.

"It's a big problem," said Smart Gilas coach Chot Reyes, needing to sit down with team officials to find ways how to cope with the tricky situation they've found themselves in.

"We're really getting bad breaks. The first time I handled the national team, our federation got suspended (in the FIBA rolls)," said Reyes, remembering his 2005 experience.

"We need to be creative. We need good imagination to work on this," said Smart Gilas team manager Butch Antonio.

If the conflict in the schedule is not resolved, Reyes said they may be forced to field the Smart Gilas cadet team for the 2003 Asian joust serving as the qualifier for the 2014 FIBA World Cup.

"Good thing, we have the cadet pool. It's really for contingency," said Reyes.

"Lalaban yan, pero mahihirapan manalo (It would fight but would have a tough time winning)," Reyes added.

Among the players in the cadet pool are Greg Slaughter, Ian Sangalang, Ronald Pascual, Jake Pascual, Kevin Alas, RR Garcia, Garvo Lanete and Matt Rosser.

The PBA had already accommodated Smart Gilas' wish, compressing its season format and schedule, supposedly to give PBA stars a two-month window to train with the national team.

"Since we took over the national team program, we've been playing FIBA Asia tourneys in September. Then suddenly, it’s August," said Antonio.

With the 2013 FIBA Asia Championship set in August , the Jones Cup is likely to be scheduled in July. PBA players thus may also have no chance at defending the title they won last August.

Meanwhile, Talk n Text shoots for playoffs top seeding while Petron Blaze, Meralco and Alaska Milk step up their respective bids for quarterfinal berths as they figure in another slam-bang twinbill in the PBA Philippine Cup at the Smart Araneta Coliseum today.

The Tropang Texters, the league's most dominant team the last two years, go for the top spot in the elimination round as they battle the Boosters at 7:30 p.m.

Like the Boosters, the Bolts seek to formalize entry into the next round as they square off with the Aces at 5:15 p.m.

"The tough road begins for us as we play Petron then Ginebra next. We win one of those games and we got twice-to-beat. That's our goal," said Talk n Text coach Norman Black after they rolled past the Air21 Express, 100-94, last Sunday.

A few hours later, the Texters gained the Top Two seeding following Barangay Ginebra's come-from-behind 97-90 victory over Rain or Shine.

But the Texters are all primed up to secure the top spot as they take on the Boosters who, for their part, are shooting for their fourth straight win and a spot in the quarters.

Out of the running for the Top Two, the Boosters (6-6), the Bolts (6-5) and the Aces (5-6) are all after a Top Six finish to avoid playing a team with a twice-to-beat advantage in the quarterfinals.

Eight teams advance to the playoffs but the last two qualifiers will be up against the Top Two that need just one win to make the next round. The third to sixth seeds will figure in a pair of best-of-three quarterfinal showdowns with the No. 3 facing No. 6 and the No. 4 tangling with No. 5.

The Boosters moved two rungs up to fifth on their three-win run capped by their 93-83 victory over the Barako Energy Cola in the Lucena stop of the Phoenix Fuel PBA on Tour Saturday.

The Bolts are half-a-game ahead of the Boosters, winning their last game versus the Globalport Batang Pier while the Aces are now at seventh, having lost their last four games.

The Aces hope to gain added boost on the return of Calvin Abueva.

"He's playing. He's practiced twice already," said Alaska coach Luigi Trillo of their prized rookie who had to be confined in a hospital after being hit on the face by Air21 center Rob Reyes in their game last Nov. 14.

"It will be interesting to see the matchup between (Cliff) Hodge and Abueva – two of the most hardworking rookies whose energy level and playing style are almost similar. If Cliff stays out of foul trouble, then we will be okay," said Meralco coach Ryan Gregorio.

"We are cautious with our approach against Alaska. For sure, they are determined to get back on track after losing their last four games," Gregorio said. "The game is critical for us too. We need to win to solidify our hold on the fourth spot."