GILAS Pilipinas was finally at full-strength on Sunday morning when Andray Blatche took part in practice for the very first time.
Delayed a couple of times due to club commitments, the naturalized player finally arrived from China early Sunday and admirably, took the court just hours later and relinked with the team he last played for in May during the Southeast Asian Basketball Association championship.
Gilas coach Chot Reyes was glad to finally see Blatche back in harness, but knows the 6-foot-11 former NBA player still needs plenty of integrating to do.
“Okay lang (yung first practice niya),” Reyes said. “We had to go very slowly. We basically had to go to almost square one kasi we did some things he's just picking up now. But you know, it is what it is.
“Thats why we're going to have two practices today just to catch him up,” he added ahead of an evening practice session at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum.
Asked if he's relieved to finally see Blatche after being held up, Reyes instead put his focus on the task at hand against Japan on Friday in Tokyo.
“I will only be relieved if we win,” the national coach said.
At least Reyes doesn't have to worry about Blatche's fitness.
“He looks good,” Reyes said. “Kasi ang comparison ko nung nagkita kami sa China, where he was really out of shape then. He had a great game [in the CBA] -- he had 26 and 13 the last game, and another 24 and 12 in the previous game playing 30-32 minutes, so he's in pretty good shape based on those.”
Blatche politely declined to grant an interview, saying he still had an appointment to go to.
Only Terrence Romeo was absent in the 16-man pool on Sunday morning.