CHANGSHA, China – Gilas Pilipinas is ready to go to battle against defending Fiba Asia champion Iran - with or without its top warrior.
Coach Tab Baldwin showed how confident he is with the Philippine team as he professed his faith in the Filipinos’ ability to play as a unit even in the face of great adversity.
“Andray is an important part of our make-up, but we have a basketball team, and that team has the ability to plug holes when holes appear,” said Baldwin following Gilas’ 73-66 win over Japan Sunday in a game that saw the 6-foot-11 Blatche bravely overcome a sprained ankle to lead the Philippine charge.
The injury suffered by Blatche couldn’t have come at a worse time for the Philippines, which faces Iran on Monday morning in a rematch of the tournament’s championship finale in Manila two years ago.
Baldwin isn’t sure yet how healthy Blatche would be for the 11:45 a.m. game against Hamed Haddadi and the Iranians.
But even in the event the Gilas naturalized player won’t be available, Baldwin still likes the Filipinos’ chances of pulling off a win.
“We have that belief, we’re trained to be that way, and we’re not afraid to be that way,” said the American-New Zealander.
The Gilas coach said the ankle sprain of the former NBA player will definitely be evaluated for the Iran game.
“We have to see about the swelling and what happens to the swelling. Hopefully we can control that and the ankle will be better tomorrow than worst,” said Baldwin.
We’ll look about it and talk about. But it’s not the end of the world.”