GILAS Pilipinas expects Andray Blatche to be in his best shape when he joins practice as team management negotiates a contract with the naturalized Philippine citizen.
Team manager Butch Antonio expects the contract to be finalized this week and Blatche to join the Philippine team in training in May, which gives him a few weeks to reacquaint himself with the Gilas system before the Fiba Olympic Qualifying Tournament in July.
“We are hoping to finalize it na sana this week over the next few days,” said Antonio on Wednesday.
“Hinihintay na lang. We are in touch especially with the handlers of Andray and we’ve come to terms and hopefully, we seal the deal," Antonio added, noting that getting Blatche back is a matter of when, not if.
“Ninety-nine percent. Pirma na lang,” said Antonio, who was at the launch of the i3i 3x3 tournament on Wednesday in Quezon City.
Blatche is set for a third stint with the Philippine squad since being naturalized in 2014, after suiting up for Gilas in the 2014 Basketball World Cup in Spain and 2015 Fiba-Asia Championship in China.
The Xinjiang Flying Tigers standout returned to the Philippines last year not in his best shape and needed some time to get back into form for the tough continental tournament.
But Antonio assured Blatche will be in best shape for the preparations for the Olympic qualifying, saying that the former NBA player is expected to begin training well ahead of his arrival in Manila on May 15.
“Actually, we’ve taken it up with him and he knows naman. I think even his handlers say that. We’ve brought that up. Confident sila because, one, he is playing now and he is putting up good numbers,” said Antonio.
“He is going to train after he goes off in China all the way to meeting us in May. He will be in best shape,” said Antonio.
Antonio noted the importance of Blatche’s readiness right after the PBA Commissioner’s Cup finals.
“It’s good to have him when the team is ready. The PBA will end on May 20 so are plans are based on that. Hopefully, by that time, we will have regular practices,” said Antonio.