GILAS Pilipinas coach Tab Baldwin insisted Iran is hardly in rebuilding mode despite the absence of Samad Bahrami and Medhi Kamrani from its squad for the Olympic Qualifying Tournament.
Iran coach Dirk Bauermann cited his squad’s ongoing youth revolution that prompted them to exclude Bahrami, 33, and the 34-year-old Kamrani from the OQT squad.
The Iranians will also be without Hamed Haddadi when they face the Filipino dribblers in tune-up games on Tuesday and Wednesday. The 7-foot-2 NBA veteran, though, remains part of the Iranian team for the Turin qualifiers.
Baldwin believes the Middle East side remains a formidable squad with their hard-banging forwards who are eager to mix it up down low.
“I don’t think they’re rebuilding because they have an extremely strong frontline, very experienced, very talented, and very rugged frontline,” Baldwin said after practice on Monday. “I think we will get the brunt of that.”
Arsalan Kazemi, a 2013 second-round NBA draftee, and veteran Oshin Sahakian stand at the forefront alongside seven-footer Asghar Kardoust and 6-foot-9 Mohammad Hassanzadeh.
“When you’ve got Kazemi and Sahakian, and the other two guys, these guys are bangers, all of them,” Baldwin said. “They’re tough guys.”
“Coach Bauermann, he’s doing what he’s supposed to do: he’s downplaying his team because he’s lost some veteran leadership in Kamrani and Samad,” Baldwin said. “But he’s a wise, old coach and he’s been around for a long time, so he knows what he’s doing.”
“He’s going to be challenging these young guys to perform. He already did at WABA,” he added of the German mentor, who steered the Iranians to the Western Asian Basketball Association Championship title last week. “He’s not going to the OQT to lose. He’s going there to give it their best shot and he’s going to have a strong team.”
Gilas tests the Iranians’ mettle first on Tuesday in a closed-door glorified scrimmage, then on Wednesday at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum.
“They’re going to be tough for us the next couple of days,” Baldwin said. “They’re a little further in their preparation than we are because they’ve already played in one Fiba event. This is going to be good learning for us and that’s what we’re doing it for.”
“The results are secondary, but the results of how we play are very important,” he added.