CHICAGO - Buried under the NBA headlines these past few days was the news that our Gilas 3x3 team failed in its attempt to garner a berth in the upcoming Tokyo Olympic Games
If it's any consolation, I am heartened to inform you that the demise came so quickly it did not allow suffering to catch up.
The polite and forgiving among us may refer to the Graz, Austria journey as an unceremonious exit, but to those who have the gumption to swallow the unsanitized truth, this was an abject failure.
We finished 0-4 in Pool C, dead last in the entire tournament, and took a combined beating of 79-48 at the hands of Qatar, Slovenia, the Dominican Republic and France.
It was the worst finish for any Filipino 3x3 team regardless of gender or age group in a FIBA 3x3 national team tournament.
The most painful part of all this was that the entire saga could have been averted if the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) allowed Chooks-To-Go, the former gatekeeper of our nation's FIBA 3x3 program, to see this project through until the end of this Olympic cycle.
Delegating duties and responsibilities is a sign of strength, not weakness. And so trust must be reposed unto organizations that have proven to possess the financial wherewithal and the organizational competence to get the job done.
Once upon a time, Chooks 3x3 spent around P200 million to establish a well-funded program to raise points for the Philippines so we can qualify for the Olympics or the OQT.
Then sanctioned by SBP, Chooks created a pool of players dedicated to playing exclusively 3x3 and produced world-ranked players such as Joshua Munzon, Alvin Pasaol, Troy Rike, Franky Johnson and a host of other players.
Chooks also developed a series of tournaments locally to accumulate FIBA points and hosted international legs to increase our points.
THINGS WERE RUNNING SMOOTHLY.
Until business and politics got in the way.
According to my reliable insider, Chooks "fell out of grace" with SBP about "sponsorship and ad contracts by Chooks with TV5 and the MVP group."
The tension got so bad it allegedly "added to the confluence of events" that led to the dismissal of a TV5 executive, a birdie told me.
It didn't help that the president of Chooks is a former SMC employee who had "a bad falling out with the bosses because he left for Chooks and took with him some execs."
With no backing from both the PBA and the SBP, it was only a matter time before Chooks was eased out of the 3x3 picture.
I don't really care for rich people fighting each other but when our beloved game gets bounced in the crossfire, I am prone to make it my business.
FIBA 3x3 is not as simple as fielding the best three players in the country. The players must have FIBA points, and to do so, must play FIBA-sanctioned tournaments which the PBA cannot accommodate.
Through an aggressive grassroots program, Chooks assured the Philippines of players who could acquire those points while getting used to playing 3x3 style basketball.
Since it was too late to replicate that machinery, the SBP simply tried to plug holes by commissioning the best players to participate in the OQT.
That strategy, however, is lame and lazy. As we had seen, it does not work.
Success in basketball is a marriage between preparation and chemistry. Attempts at shortcuts will result in tragedies like we saw in Graz, Austria.
The 5-on-5 Gilas team knows this and have been in a bubble in Calamba since March while their 3x3 counterparts only had a week or two of practice together.
I am so sick of hearing our officials talk about glory for the country when their actions seem to reflect that they are only vigorously waving the flags of self-interest.