CHANGSHA, China - After reporting for training camp overweight and out of shape, Andray Blatche has slowly but surely tilted the scales in his favor.
That was none more apparent than on Thursday night.
The former NBA player put together his best game in the Fiba Asia championship when Gilas Pilipinas needed it most, rescuing his team time and again in a tension-filled 82-70 win over Lebanon on Friday night.
The 6-11 Blatche scored 24 points and grabbed 17 rebounds in a sublime performance reminiscent of his form in his first stint with Gilas in last year's Fiba World Cup in Seville, Spain.
In doing so, Blatche silenced not only his critics in Manila but also the crowd inside the Changsha Social World Colleges gymnasium that was clearly rooting for a victory by the underdog Lebanese.
A couple of times during the fourth quarter, Blatche was seen putting a finger in his lips, silencing the crowd with each dagger he struck in the fourth quarter.
Asked about the crowd's jeering afterwards, Blatche, who plays professionally in the Chinese Basketball Association (CBA), said it became a source of motivatrion.
"That only fired me up," said the former Brooklyn Net. "They're saying a lot before the game. But the important thing is we got the win."
The naturalized player understands the predicament of the home crowd which he said considers Gilas ‘a big threat’ to the Chinese team's bid to regain back the crown
“I’m quite sure they’d rather see them other than us,” said Blatche.
But for someone who’s been accustomed to playing in a home-and-away league such as the NBA, Blatche said the crowd jeering doesn’t exactly bothered him.
“It doesn’t affect me. Once they start doing that I actually get real fired up. I like that,” he said.