MANILA, Philippines -- The executive director of the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) assured that Gilas Pilipinas will always do its best to win games, in the wake of the latest controversial comments made by coach Chot Reyes.
Reyes once again earned the ire of local basketball fans when he said that the national team doesn't "really need to win" its upcoming game against Lebanon in the FIBA World Cup Asian qualifiers later this month.
"It's going to be good for PR, it's going to be good for, I guess, me with my haters. But for the whole team objective, it's not necessary," the coach said, as Reyes stressed that the national team's current focus was to develop and learn together on their way to next year's FIBA Basketball World Cup.
SBP executive director and spokesperson Sonny Barrios sought to provide context for Reyes' comments during his appearance in the Philippine Sportswriters Association (PSA) Forum on Tuesday morning.
"The objective is to win the game that we play. That's the objective," said Barrios. "[But] at the same time, itong August 25th and 29th, we're not fielding our best team."
Barrios pointed out that because Gilas Pilipinas has already qualified for the World Cup, the national team coaches have the "luxury" of evaluating the players who are currently in their pool. Even as they continue to compete in the qualifiers, Gilas is not in a "must-win" situation, as they were in 2019.
"They [Gilas] will try their best and live and die on the court if necessary, to win," said Barrios. "That said, 'yun na nga -- we have the luxury of, we don't have to win."
"But the desire to win will always be there," he stressed. "'Yung need to win, in terms of qualifying, wala 'yun. But the desire to win is always there."
Gilas Pilipinas will play Lebanon on the road on August 25, then host Saudi Arabia at the Mall of Asia Arena on August 29.
Lebanon currently has a 3-1 win-loss record in the qualifiers, and they are coming off a historic run in the FIBA Asia Cup where they placed second to Australia. Along the way, Lebanon upset China in the quarterfinals and Jordan in the semis.
They routed the Philippines, 95-80, when they played in the group phase.
Barrios called on Filipino fans to support Gilas in the upcoming window, even as he acknowledged that the national team has fallen well short of expectations in recent months. Gilas didn't make the top eight in the FIBA Asia Cup, and suffered a shock loss to Indonesia in the gold medal match in the 31st Southeast Asian Games.
"I want to [ask] our public na huwag niyo po sanang iwanan ang ating Gilas. Alam ko marami pa kayong inaasahan na hindi niyo nakukuha sa ngayon, pero pinagbubuti po namin," he said.