NATIONAL coach Tab Baldwin expects naturalized player Andray Blatche to be back in Manila before or just shortly after the PBA Governors Cup when Gilas Pilipinas begins training for the Fiba-Asia men’s basketball championships.
Baldwin said the former Brooklyn Nets center gave him an assurance that he’ll be reinforcing Gilas in this year’s Fiba showpiece, which serves as the qualifier for the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro in Brazil.
“We expect him to be with us. I’ve spoken to Andray and he’s told me he’s committed and will be 100 percent with the team,” Baldwin told Spin.ph.
“I like Andray a lot. He’s a very important talent for the team and I don’t expect any problems with that,” he said.
The 57-year-old Baldwin also believes Blatche’s recent decision to sign a three-year, multi-million dollar with the Xinjian Flying Tigers in the Chinese Basketball Association won’t keep him from playing for Gilas.
Judging from Blatche’s performance with Gilas in last year’s Fiba World Cup, Baldwin wants the 28-year-old NBA veteran slotman to assume a bigger role for the national team.
“I want to get him here virtually before we go to the (training) camp, or maybe a little bit before that. Hopefully, before the end of the third conference,” added the coach from New Zealand.
“He’ll still have a prominent role. He’s got great knowledge of the game, and we want to rely on that, tap into that. He’s a great talent,” he said.
Baldwin explained that Blatche’s stint in the 2014-15 CBA season will also help Gilas because of the insight he gained not only on the Chinese national players but also on the China game in general.
“He dominated in China and his knowledge of the Chinese team and Chinese players will be important as well if we go up against them,” said Baldwin, who also serves as Talk ‘N Text’s team consultant.
Blatche emerged as one of the top performers in the Fiba World Cup in Spain last year when he averaged 21.2 points, 13.8 rebounds and 1.6 steals for Gilas.
Blatche, the Washington Wizards’ 49th pick overall in the 2005 NBA draft, is coming off an impressive stint with Xinjian, averaging 31.1 points, 14.6 rebounds, 5.1 assists and 2.8 steals in 38 games.
The Tigers, however, failed to qualify for the playoffs after finishing ninth at the end of the eliminations.