MANILA, Philippines -- The Philippine national basketball team is facing a packed schedule next year, after two major competitions were rescheduled to 2022.
Gilas Pilipinas was set to compete in the FIBA Asia Cup in August and the Southeast Asian Games in November but both events were postponed to next year over concerns about the COVID-19 pandemic.
The FIBA Asia Cup will now be held in July 2022, in Jakarta, Indonesia. Vietnam, meanwhile, has yet to announce a new schedule for the 31st SEA Games.
The postponement of the FIBA Asia Cup, in particular, was both a good and a bad thing for Gilas Pilipinas, according to head coach Tab Baldwin.
"I mean, more time to prepare for us is not a bad thing," Baldwin told former PBA commissioner Noli Eala on his "Power and Play" sports show. "We need practice more than we need games, but we need games as well."
"What it really does is, it puts an extremely heavy schedule into 2022," he noted.
Not only will Gilas Pilipinas compete in the FIBA Asia Cup and the SEA Games, they are also set to take part in the FIBA World Cup qualifiers, and the Asian Games in Hangzhou, China in September.
"We have a very full schedule, which is exciting," Baldwin said. "But it also means that we've got a lot of work to do to get prepared for that."
Baldwin will meet with Gilas Pilipinas management in the near future to discuss their plans for the rest of 2021 and 2022, with the coach stressing that they need to return to the basketball court soon.
Gilas in July competed in the FIBA Asia Cup qualifiers and the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament, and recently took part in the King Abdullah Cup in Jordan. The pocket tournament was meant to be a tune-up for the FIBA Asia Cup before it was postponed.
While nothing is set in stone, Baldwin is hopeful that the Gilas players -- who are getting a much-needed break at the moment -- will be back to work soon.
"We can't let the gains that we've made get rusty, so I suspect the players will get a couple more weeks off, and then we'll see at that time what are the protocols," he said.
"Will we be able to get into a gym and go home at night, and train that way like it's normal, or will we have to go back into a bubble? So we don't exactly know," he added. "But we can't take that much time off."
As for 2022, Baldwin said it will be ideal for the country to send one team to all competitions, as it will be the best way for them to gain experience and chemistry en route to the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2023.
"That will be my hope," he said.
However, Baldwin also understands if the sport's powerbrokers want to take a "different approach," particularly for the Asian Games where the Philippines will be vying for a podium finish.
"Let's say the bosses are very determined to win a gold at the Asian Games, they wanna use more veteran players. If that's the goal, then we will adjust," Baldwin assured. "We will take into consideration all of that and make our decisions based on that."
"Because if we take a young team, maybe a gold is not a realistic objective, but maybe we can put together a stronger roster that can do that. So, these are discussions that will certainly take place," he said.