AS he heard the final buzzer that signaled Gilas Pilipinas’ 89-84 win over Japan in the Fiba World Cup qualifiers on Sunday night, Andray Blatche let out a roar at centercourt.
The naturalized center looked relieved, not only because the national team reached the second round of the qualifiers, but more because he would finally get critics off his case.
“It feels great definitely to advance ... definitely from being bashed for the last 36, 48 hours,” Blatche admitted. “Just to get a win, just to get…off my shoulders, just to know I was able to help us get to the second round.”
Blatche played his best offensive game yet for Gilas in these qualifiers as he registered 18 points on top of 16 boards, four assists, two steals, and one block in 30 minutes as a starter.
But the former NBA player insisted he wasn’t trying to prove the critics wrong.
“No, never,” he said. “I'm quite sure they're gonna find something else. All I can do is continue getting better and stay focused.”
Blatche is still quite satisfied with his performance considering he just recently recovered from a hamstring injury that sidelined him from playing for Xinjiang in the Chinese Basketball Association.
“For me, it actually feels great to get this win and play sort of well,” Blatche said. “It's been a long time since I've been playing on the court. This is my second game since the first one, but this is big for us to advance to the second round. Gotta go back to China and start the playoffs.”
“I still feel like I can do a lot better,” he was quick to ad. “It's a rhythm thing. I'm starting to get my rhythm back, starting to get my legs back. It was more of me trusting my injury. I left it alone. I said forget it, if I hurt myself, I hurt myself. And it's my confidence.”