Portland Trail Blazer Robin Lopez says he's willing to play for Gilas as naturalized player
“If the whole Andray Blatche thing doesn’t work out, I’m here for Gilas,” says NBA center Robin Lopez. Jerome Ascano

IT only took three days for Robin Lopez to fall in love with the Philippines, so much so that the American NBA center has presented himself as another naturalization candidate for the country's basketball team.

“If the whole Andray Blatche thing doesn’t work out, I’m here for Gilas,” Lopez said on Thursday after conducting a training camp organized by Gatorade and NBA Philippines at the Hoops Center in Mandaluyong.

“I don’t wish any harm to come to Dray because obviously he’s played his heart out for that team and he’s a great fit,” the Portaland Trail Blazer said, referring to Blatche, who reinforced Gilas as a naturalized Filipino in the recent Fiba World Cup.

[See Blatche out of Asiad team as Asia Olympic chief rebuffs Fiba in eligibility row]

A seven-foot big man with a decent touch from long range, Lopez expressed his willingness after only his third day in a country where basketball is a religion.

 “I’d love to (play for the country). I realized the passion these people have for basketball,” said Lopez, whose brother Brook played with Blatche at Brooklyn in the last NBA season.

Even back home, the six-year NBA veteran has started to keep tab on the Philippine team, saying he watched a few of Gilas’ games – usually airing at 3 a.m. in California – in the world basketball championship where the Filipino dribblers won just one of their five assignments, but gained the respect of the whole world.

Lopez also has ties in the Philippines, as one of his best friends is a Filipino in Ryan Reypon, a high school teammate who once played in the PBA D-League for Cobra a few years back.

“I love the culture here.”

[See Wesley Matthews surprised Pinoy fans still remember his dad and namesake]

Follow the writer on Twitter: @KarloSacamos