TAIPEI - As a coach, Tab Baldwin said he can't get too caught up with the hype and the history that surrounds every Gilas Pilipinas game against Chinese-Taipei.
"History doesn't mean a thing for me as a coach," said Baldwin, hours before Gilas makes its Jones Cup debut against the hosts on Sunday night at the Xinchuang Stadium. " It does to the players, so we have to use that in a positive way. If it's gonna help motivate the players, fine.
"But for me, it's about our team getting better."
The match certainly holds more significance for players like Gabe Norwood, one of only six holdovers from the Gilas team that lost to Chinese-Taipei, 79-84, before stunned home fans in Manila during the Fiba Asia championships.
The 9 p.m. face-off is also the first in the Jones Cup for the two teams since Gilas won the 2012 title. The Filipinos' invitation was cancelled by organizers in 2013 following the death of a Taiwanese fisherman off disputed waters while Gilas opted to sit out the 2014 tournament.
All that is not lost on Norwood, who, along with fellow holdovers Gary David, Jayson Castro, and Marc Pingris (Jimmy Alapag and Ranidel de Ocampo are sitting out the game) are longing for payback against the Taiwanese.
"Badly, badly," Norwood said when asked how much he wants to beat Taipei. "Not only given the history but also the loss in Manila. This is a game that we want. Unfortunately, not everyone (from the 2012-2013 team) is here, but the guys understand the history and they want to get out and get a win."
"After all the controversy and drama that has transpired in the last three, four years, it’s good to be back representing the country in Taiwan. Want to come out and give the best of our efforts to come out and win this Jones Cup," he added.
The 2013 loss in Manila obviously still eats up Norwood and Co., and reviewing tapes of that defeat on Saturday night had them reliving the pain of letting a won game get away against Taipei in Manila.
"We watched film yesterday and I didn’t realize how much we were in control and let that one get away," said Norwood at the end of Gilas practice on Sunday morning. "Watching a couple of clips was disheartening."
"This is an opportunity to get some of that back, though this is not the same stage (like the Fiba-Asia), but we want to come out and play to the best of our ability."
Still, Baldwin said a win over Taipei won't mean much to him - unless it happens in the Fiba Asia championships more than three weeks from now in Changsha, China.
"Chinese Taipei doesn't mean anything to me; it only means something to me in the Fiba Asia. We're desperate to beat them (there). Right now, we just want to play a good game, more importantly we want to get better."