A SAMAHANG Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) official welcomed Andray Blatche’s decision to ink a three-year, US$7.5 million contract with the Xinjiang Flying Tigers in the Chinese Basketball Association, saying it augurs well for the naturalized player's stint with Gilas Pilipinas this year.
“I don’t think that will be a problem, unless his contract stipulates he can’t play for the (Philippine) national team,” said Butch Antonio, SBP’s deputy director for international affairs, in reaction to an NBC report on Blatche's fresh contract with the CBA team on Tuesday.
Antonio explained that Gilas’ new coach Tab Baldwin has been in touch with the former Brooklyn Nets backup big man, who has signified his intention to reinforce the national squad in this year’s Fiba-Asia men’s championships in Changsa, China.
The Fiba-Asia basketball showpiece, a qualifying tournament for the 2016 Rio Olympics, is set on September 23 to October 3.
“Andray has signified his intention to play for us and he said he enjoyed playing for Gilas,” added Antonio, who concurrently holds the position of project director for the MVP Sports Foundation.
The SBP executive also explained that the CBA’s calendar is in sync with the Fiba-Asia men’s championship to give way for the Chinese national players.
That means Blatche's CBA team will most likely be inactive when he is called up by Gilas, Antonio added.
Last year, Blatche was able to integrate well with Gilas during the national team’s training camp in Miami, Florida, before playing a series of games in a rigorous European tour.
The 28-year-old Blatche eventually emerged as one of the top performers in last year’s Fiba World Cup in Seville, Spain with double-double averages of 21.2 points and 13.8 rebounds for Gilas.
Blatche scored 18 points and grabbed 14 rebounds to help Gilas register a breakthrough 81-79 overtime win over Senegal, marking the first time the Philippines won in the world stage since the 1974 edition in San Juan, Puerto Rico.
In the CBA this past season, the 6-foot-11 Blatche had an impressive stats line of 31.1 points, 14.6 rebounds, 5.1 assists and 2.8 steals in 38 games for the Flying Tigers.
The Tigers, though, failed to qualify for the playoffs after finishing ninth at the end of the eliminations.