MANILA, Philippines -- The Philippines will not have to deal with prolific Thai-American star Tyler Lamb when they play in the FIBA Asia Cup 2021 qualifiers later this week.
The 29-year-old Lamb was not included in Thailand's 10-man roster that will compete in the qualifying window in a bubble that will be held in Manama, Bahrain.
The Basketball Sport Association of Thailand sent an all-pro squad, of which five members also saw action in the 2019 Southeast Asian Games.
The Thai team is composed of: Wattana Suthisin, Nakorn Jaisanook, Bundit Lakhanthat, Anaswee Klawnarong, Chatchaphon Chuengyampin, Anucha Langsui, Sukdave Koker, Montien Wongsawangthamthat, Chanathip Chakwanthat, and Nuttakan Muangboonthat.
Gilas Pilipinas will play Thailand twice: first on November 27, and again on November 30. Their first meeting is a "make-up game" after their initial encounter in February was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
"Our players are ready up to a certain level," BSAT president Nipondh Chavalitmontien said in a FIBA report.
"Indonesia are very strong, especially with the new additions to their team. The Philippines are always strong as well, no matter who they put in the lineup," he added.
Thailand will also play Indonesia on November 28.
Not having Lamb is a blow to Thailand, as he has been their best player since he made his national team debut in 2017. In last year's SEA Games, he scored 33 points in the gold medal game against the Philippines, although the home team still claimed a comfortable 115-81 win.
In a 93-86 loss to South Korea in the first qualifying window last February, Lamb put up 28 points and 12 rebounds.
Even without the high-scoring swingman, Thailand still poses a problem for a youthful Philippines squad that will be playing together for the first time.
"Ang mahirap lang naman sa Thailand, compared to our Gilas team that is going, mas matagal na silang naglalaro together," Gilas coach Jong Uichico said. "Because club team sila eh, they are a club team."
"Nakalaban namin sila last year sa SEA Games, sila din 'yun. Sa SEA Games sa Malaysia (in 2017), sila din 'yun," he said. "So they've been together for so long, and through these years, nagi-improve sila. They are a cohesive unit all these years."
The Philippines is sending a young team composed of fresh graduates and college stars to the qualifying window. Gilas has a 1-0 record in Group A, thanks to a 100-70 rout of Indonesia in February, while Thailand is at 0-1.