GILAS Pilipinas coach Tab Baldwin admitted he’s very fond of Rain or Shine big man Raymond Almazan and doesn’t hide his wish to have him on board the national team preparing for the 2016 Olympic Qualifying Tournament.
But the 57-year-old American-New Zealander is also aware it will take more than just talking with and convincing the lanky center out of Letran to play for him and suit up for flag and country.
Baldwin stressed getting the services of the third-year pro should have the blessings of both Rain or Shine management and the PBA board, in the same manner 17 other players before him went through the process before they were named as part of the current Gilas pool.
“It still got to be formalized with the Rain or Shine administration, and they (ROS) have to say, ‘We think it’s a good idea as well,” said Baldwin.
“There are tug-of-wars over these players and over what’s best for them and their future, and all the teams that they are participating. And no one has the blanket authority to just walk around and say I want that guy, that guy, that guy.”
Baldwin has seen Almazan from up close several times, including the knockout quarterfinal playoffs between the Elasto Painters and the TNT Tropang Texters during the recent Philippine Cup.
The 6-foot-8 Almazan showed the way during the game with 15 points and 10 rebounds as Rain or Shine booted out TNT, 104-89. Shortly after, Baldwin approached the young center and made known his interest to tap him for Gilas.
Baldwin refused to discuss what they talked about, but Almazan did confirm the invitation to join the national team.
“Every player naman talaga dream ‘yun,” said Almazan. “Pag humindi ka run, tanga ka talaga.”
The Gilas coach would later become open about the offer, especially after the team finally got to learn about its group and opponents when the country hosts one of the three Olympic qualifiers from July 5-10.
Baldwin acknowledged Almazan is playing very well. He noted the Elasto Painters could have had a very good shot at beating reigning champion San Miguel in the semifinals had their big man not suffered a sprained ankle that kept him out from playing in the semifinals series from Game Four onwards.
“His (Almazan) offensive game is maturing a lot. He still doesn’t have a strong low post game but he’s very active. He runs the floor well, he’ s an excellent offensive rebounder and defensively, he does have ability to be disruptive, he blocks shots, he intimidate shots, he changes shots,” Baldwin said of Almazan.
“And I love (his) rebounding. Raymond has done a great job of improving his rebounding over time.”
And though Almazan has not been really taking a lot from the perimeter for Rain or Shine – what with the presence of perimeter-shooting big men JR Quinahan and Beau Belga - Baldwin knows Almazan has the ability to stretch out the defense once he learns taking the outside shots for Gilas.
“But in Gilas, he could execute that a little bit for us,” said Baldwin. “So we would like to see him on the pool. We’re gonna have some discussions and see if we can make that happen.”
Then again, it’s not as easy as saying A-B-C.
Baldwin respects the authority of Rain or Shine and the board of governors, especially with the good relationship the national team and the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) have with the pro league.
“We need to be diplomatic. We need to do things according to the right processes. And as long as we do that, I think we can have a successful relationship,” said the Gilas coach.
“We don’t want to do things to put that in jeopardy.”