RIGHT on his first day in what he hopes would be his adopted land, NBA star Andray Blatche's first order of business was to straighten out the confusion brought about by one amusing tweet.
As soon as he boarded the plane in New York that would take him to Manila, Blatche fired a tweet to announce to his followers that he is bound to arrive in a basketball-mad country which hopes to tap him as a naturalized player for its national team.
The tweet goes:
'Kumusta Manila, of course, means 'How are you, Manila' while the hashtag 'LabanPilipinasPuso' is the battle cry of the Gilas national basketball team which translates to 'Fight, Philippines' and '(All) Heart.'
But without the 'n' in the Tagalog word 'Laban,' the word takes on a whole new meaning. By saying 'LabaPilipinas,' Blatche had rallied the entire Filipino nation to do its laundry.
An amused Blatche appeared on national television with national coach Chot Reyes just hours after his arrival, and his first order of business was to wash away the misconception over the tweet.
"What I meant was 'Laban, Pilipinas," he said, laughing, "not laundry."
Except for that initial misstep, the 6-11 Brooklyn Nets center said all the right things as he turned on the charm while waiting for the signature of President Aquino on a Senate bill that would make him a naturalized Filipino.
A second-round pick (49th overall) by the Washington Wizards in the 2005 NBA rookie draft, Blatche arrived in the country on Sunday morning to personally meet his Gilas teammates and benefactors from the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP).
He had a sumptuous lunch tendered for him by SBP president and top businessman Manny V. Pangilinan at the Meralco Bldg. in Ortigas, where he partook of famous Filipino delicacies such as kare-kare (`that good thing where you put sauce on it’) and halo-halo.
“It was amazing. I have no more jetlag after lunch,” he said with a big laugh.
Blatche also saw up close Gilas teammates Jimmy Alapag and Jason Castro, adjudged as one of two best guards in Asia during the Fiba-Asia Men’s Championship in Manila last year.
“When they (Jimmy and Jayson) actually saw him (Blatche), I wouldn’t say there’s the awe thing. But I can definitely sense a lot of excitement on them,” said Reyes, who accompanied Blatche during the interview conducted by PBA courtside reporter Erika Padilla.
It would be a brief stay for the 27-year-old Blatche as he is set to go back to the US in a few days to `start working out and be ready,’ as Reyes said he will start practicing with Gilas by July.
Still single, Blatche mentioned about `never leaving the country’ in the future, fully aware he’s in the company of people who share the same passion for basketball that he had.
“People here love basketball, that’s something that struck me,” he admitted, adding he has heard stories of kids still playing the game even after being caught in the middle of natural calamities such as floods and typhoon.
“I’ve heard about kids playing basketball in the middle of a flood. That’s something that you don’t see anywhere. I can’t see in the US kids playing in floods,” he said.
It’s that kind of attitude and outlook which he thinks would make him click with Reyes and the rest of the Gilas team.
“I understand it’s all about heart. Puso. I’m a winner. I’m a hard worker. And this is something I want myself to be a part of,” Blatche added.