ANDRAY Blatche has made a successful return to Gilas Pilipinas. Will Jordan Clarkson follow suit?
The possibility of having two NBA players in the national team has been a dream for Filipino fans for so long, now more than ever after the Philippines punched a ticket to the 2019 Fiba World Cup in China after its 93-75 win over Kazakhstan.
The situation of Blatche, a nine-year NBA veteran who had stops with the Washington Wizards and the Brooklyn Nets, is more certain as he has earned a return trip to the World Cup after his talismanic performance against the Kazakhs.
The 32-year-old Syracuse-born slotman is in fact set to finish his obligations with Tianjin Gold Lions in the Chinese Basketball Association (CBA) first before returning to the country and playing as a PBA import, either with TNT or NLEX.
That means he can prepare for the August 31 to September 15 showpiece right here in the Philippines together with the rest of the team.
If Blatche is a cinch as Gilas' naturalized player, the only way the dream team-up can happen is for Clarkson to be allowed to play as a local [Fiba allows only one naturalized player per team].
But his situation is tricky, to say the least.
The Cleveland Cavalier guard had his lone opportunity to don the national tri-colors in the 2018 Asian Games in Indonesia after he was given a special "one-time exemption" by the NBA. But the eligibility rules of the Asiad are different from those of Fiba, which requires all duel citizens to have passports of the country the players want to represent that they acquired before turning 16.
Clarkson and the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) have been moving heaven and earth for close to five years now just to get a Fiba clearance for the 6-foot-5 Fil-American, way back when he was still with the Los Angeles Lakers.
As early as 2015, the SBP has submitted documents to the world basketball governing body proving that Clarkson, whose mother traces her roots to Angeles City, Pampanga, has secured a Philippine passport at the age of 12.
But for reasons it hasn't divulged, Fiba has yet to grant a clearance to Clarkson.
Last September, Fiba, through its late secretary-general Patrick Baumann, has softened up a bit on the eligibility issue and granted an exemption to Greg Slaughter, a Fil-German who failed to secure a Philippine passport before turning 16.
But for Clarkson to get the same exemption, the SBP must launch another appeal and prove that the 26-year old NBA player deserves to be treated differently than other players holding dual citizenship.
Lately, the SBP has taken the battle to a different plane as its officials supported moves for Fiba to relax the passport requirement, meaning all players who can prove their bloodline or heritage should be allowed to play.
That move has gained support from a number of countries, but there's no certainty if Fiba will act on it. Or act on it favorably.
The 2019 Fiba World Cup is set to be staged in China in August. And unless a change of heart by Fiba happens, the possibility of Blatche and Clarkson teaming up for the Philippines will remain just that - a dream.