TAIPEI - After another deflating loss at the hands of Hamed Haddadi and Iran, Gilas Pilipinas fans found comfort in the thought that former NBA player Andray Blatche will be back to reinforce the national team when the two sides cross paths again three weeks from now.
But don't tell that to Tab Baldwin.
"Today's game was about today's game, not with or without Andray or about anybody else," said the national coach after the Philippines dropped a 65-74 defeat against Iran on Thursday afternoon in a game billed by the local media as the 'championship' of the 37th Jones Cup.
"We're not looking for Andray to solve our problems. We came to play better basketball," Baldwin added. "Our discipline was off today. I hope Andray comes in and helps our discipline, make us a much better team. But today's game is not about Andray but about the 12 guys we have on the floor."
Baldwin said the team expects Blatche to be back on Saturday after leaving for the US on the eve of this tournament to attend the funeral of an uncle.
However, there are a lot of questions surrounding the former Brooklyn Net, who reported for Gilas training camp overweight and saw his conditioning set back by the unplanned trip home.
"We have to let him play and see how he looks like," Baldwin said.
But if he does show up on Saturday and is in good enough shape to play, Baldwin said he intends to play the naturalized player in Gilas' final game against Chinese-Taipei's B team.
"I hope he's back on Saturday but I don't have any assurances. If he is back on Saturday, maybe I'll play him on Sunday, depending on his recovery from the trip," Baldwin said.
"It's not going to be easy. We don't want to put him in a situation where we'll be risking injury."
Baldwin also pointed out that it was not only Gilas that was missing a key player in the Jones Cup match.
Samad Bahrami, widely regarded as the best forward in Asia, did not join Iran in this trip due to a 'minor health issue' but is expected to be healthy in time for the Fiba Asia championships.
"He's a world-class player, on both ends of the floor," said Baldwin of the 32-year-old Bahrami.