CHANGSHA, China – There is certainly no room for Gilas Pilipinas to wear out especially now when the Fiba Asia Championship race enters its most important stretch.
Don't expect coach Tab Baldwin to use the fatigue factor as a convenient excuse for his team especially after playing six games in a seven-day span in this tournament serving as the Olympic qualifier for Asia.
That’s not to mention the rigors of playing in the Jones Cup a few weeks before the Fiba Asia and a four-nation pocket tournament in Estonia just last month.
But the Gilas mentor said his coaching staff did a good job of keeping most of the players fresh by evenly distributing the minutes during that backbreaking stretch.
“So fatigue is inexcusable for us. It’s not a factor,” said the 57-year-old American-New Zealander from Jacksonville, who welcomed the one-day break of the tournament prior to staging the knockout phase.
“I said to them there’s no excuse for anybody to be playing like you’re tired or something like that.”
Baldwin noted none among the 12 Gilas members average more than 25 minutes of playing time per game, not even naturalized player Andray Blatche or starting point guard Jason Castro.
Defensive wingman Gabe Norwood had been the most active Gilas player on court, averaging 23.1 minutes of playing per game after the two-round preliminary.
The 6-foot-11 Blatche is next at 22.9 minutes followed by Castro (21.9), Ranidel De Ocampo (21.7), and Terrence Romeo (21.1).
The ‘Team Kurimao’ of Calvin Abueva and Marc Pingris comes off the bench averaging 17.6 and 14.5 minutes per game, respectively.
Nonetheless, Baldwin still expects to dig deep into the Gilas tank now that the war comes into that stage where the ‘obstacle gets bigger, smarter, and tougher.'
“I expect that we will begin to drain those reserves and really hope to dig deep and hopefully, we can,” said the outspoken veteran internationalist.