What ails Philippine basketball
The Philippines' embarrassing loss, 108-62, to Italy in its first game in the 2019 FIBA World Cup on Saturday night exposed once again the country's weakness in international competition.
Gilas Pilipinas, playing like the way they do in the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA), ended up confirming what President Rodrigo Duterte said three weeks ago on the national team's chances: "Wala, talo tayo, walang laban. Sa China na lang tayo magpusta. We will lose to Italy. Ang lalaki kaya ng mga gag*ng ‘yan."
Although the Philippines has gotten better in international competition over the past decade, it still has to find the right formula on how to be competitive in FIBA games.
The Philippines was once among the top 10 teams in the world in basketball. We placed 3rd in the FIBA World Championships in 1954 and 8th in 1959, but we've been doing badly ever since.
It's not a good sign considering the PBA is Asia's oldest league and the second oldest in the world next to the NBA.
Height, of course, is one factor in basketball, but Golden State Warrior's Stephen Curry, who stands 6-foot-3, has proven that height isn't might in basketball.
Three-point shooting is key in international competition, and Gilas Pilipinas' woeful 3-of-23 in their game against Italy doomed any chance of pulling off an upset.
In the PBA, centers are not made to run fast and be good 3-pointer shooters, but in countries that do well in international competition, their centers are quick and also 3-point marksmen.
Speed is another factor. Compare a PBA game to European-style basketball and you'll clearly see the speed factor, especially in offense.
It was, in fact, the quick-running PBA rookies, CJ Perez and Robert Bolick, not the slower PBA veterans, who played better in the game against Italy.
Since PBA players are used to the same style the whole year round, it's difficult for them to suddenly become competitive in international basketball.
So, unless the PBA adjusts its system and makes all the potential national team players good in 3-point shooting, the only way the Philippines can advance to the succeeding rounds in the World Cup is to get bracketed with weaker teams.
Yes, height is important in basketball, but so is being smart. Unless the PBA shifts to playing smart, expect more embarrassing losses in the World Cup.
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