GILAS Pilipinas is set to face a new-look Iran side that will be without its Big Three of Hamed Haddadi, Samad Bahrami, and Mehdi Kamrani in their two tune-up games on Tuesday and Wednesday.
While Bahrami and Kamrani are entirely not part of the lineup, Haddadi will still lead the Iraninans in the Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Turin, but begged off from joing the Philippine trip owing to personal issues.
“He’s still part of the team,” Iran coach Dirk Bauermann said of the 7-foot-2 Haddadi. “He had some personal thing to take care of. He’s not going to come to the Philippines. Whether or not he’s going to be able to join us in China, which is where we go from here, we don’t know yet.”
That dashes local fans' hopes of witnessing another matchup between Haddadi and Gilas stalwart June Mar Fajardo.
Leaving Bahrami, 33, and the 34-year-old Kamrani out of the lineup is part of the Iranian’s youth revolution.
“We were the oldest team last year in the Asian championships and we just had to find a way to give the young players an opportunity to develop and grow,” said Bauermann, who granted interviews to reporters after having lunch at their hotel in Cubao.
“We felt this summer would be a perfect opportunity and perfect time to do that,” added the German mentor, whose team recently ruled the Western Asian Association Basketball Association Championship. “And so far it's worked out pretty well.”
While admitting it will be tough to defeat Gilas in its home turf, Bauermann is confident of his young lineup. They face the Filipinos in a virtual scrimmage on Tuesday night at Hoops Gym, before taking them on in a tune-up game the next night at Smart-Araneta Coliseum.
“We have the highest respect for Gilas and coach and we know it’s going be a very difficult game for us, but we have a young group of guys that have played really well so far and that have jelled and exceeded expectations,” he said. “Hopefully, we’ll be able to give them a good game.”