THE Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) said it expects Andray Blatche to honor his contract with Gilas Pilipinas amid fears that that the naturalized player won't be released by his Chinese team for the 2015 Fiba Asia men's championships in Changsha, China in September.
Appearing in Tuesday’s Philippine Sportswriters Association (PSA) Forum, SBP executive director Renauld ‘Sonny’ Barrios said Blatche has a live contract which he signed after being naturalized to play for the Philippines beginning in last year's Fiba World Cup in Seville, Spain.
Barrios made the assurance in the wake of a Manila Bulletin report saying Blatche failed to get a release from his club team in Chinese Basketball Association (CBA), the Xinjiang Flying Tigers, to play for the Fiba-Asia Championship.
Barrios made no assurance during the same session that Blatche will play for Gilas in the Olympic qualifier, but said the SBP leadership expects the former Brooklyn Net to arrive and is in fact in the process of looking for a place for him to stay while in training with the national team in Manila.
“May kontrata sa atin si Blatche. Sigurado akong may kontrata kasi ako ang pumirma. Alam ko sa Amerikano, kapag may kontrata, hindi nila basta binabali ‘yun,” said Barrios.
“Kaya tingin ko closed case na ‘yan.”
National coach Tab Baldwin earlier said Blatche already has a plane ticket going to the Philippines and expects the NBA veteran to arrive in the country this weekend.
Barrios even bared the federation has started to look for a Blatche’s temporary residence in the country.
“As early as last week, Butch Antonio (SBP official) was already looking for a place na matitirhan ni Blatche,” he said.
Blatche's absence could be a major blow for Gilas' bid to win the Asian championship after finishing runner-up to Iran when the Philippines hosted the event in 2013.
The winner of the tournament also gains passage to the 2016 Olympics in Rio De Janeiro.
As it is, former Gilas starting guard LA Tenorio has already begged off from consideration citing fatigue and poor form while Marc Pingris and June Mar Fajardo are also in doubt for the start of training.
Barrios did his best to ease the fears. Asked about the players named to the Gilas pool, the former PBA commissioner said, "Ang masasabi ko lang na pangalan ngayon na sigurado as si Blatche."
The SBP official, however, also admitted Gilas' lineup is still a 'work in progress,' all but confirming fears that Baldwin has yet to form the pool that he wants just days before the start of training.
As it is, the SBP has moved back the start of Gilas practice to Monday.
Blatche impressed for Gilas during the last World Cup in Spain and has sustained his form in the Chinese league, where he is signed to a seven-figure contract.
In his absence, Gilas at least has another naturalized player on standby in Marcus Douthit.