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    Why a Jordan Clarkson call-up won't prosper for Gilas at this time

    Oct 15, 2020
    PHOTO: Jerome Ascano

    DESPERATE times call for desperate measures, right?

    And Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP), whether it likes to admit it or not, is facing that conundrum when it comes to forming a competent Gilas Pilipinas team for the November window of the 2021 Fiba Asia Cup qualifiers.

    But adversities like this one could only breed opportunity, and here's a wild thought SBP may consider: call up Jordan Clarkson.

    It's an uncanny pick, but who could deny the impact Clarkson can provide for the national team?

    We all saw in the 2018 Asian Games what the 6-foot-5 Fil-Am guard can bring to the table for the national team of his mother's homeland, averaging 26.0 points, 6.5 rebounds and 5.5 assists for Gilas.

    Although the Philippines missed out on a podium finish in that quadrennial showcase, Clarkson's presence alone led Gilas to a respectable fifth-place finish under Yeng Guiao in the aftermath of the infamous brawl with Australia.

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    And what better time for the SBP to bring him back in, with the 2019-2020 NBA season just wrapping up after Clarkson's Jazz made it to the Western Conference playoffs and the Los Angeles Lakers capturing the championship in six games against the Miami Heat.

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    It's a opportunity that presented itself only because of the global COVID-19 pandemic threw off the NBA season, which traditionally opens in late October and lasts until June. That effectively kept NBA players from suiting up for their national teams in the home-and-away windows of the Fiba qualifiers set in February, July, and November.

    The next NBA season remains a big question mark, so technically Clarkson will be free to suit up for the Philippines not only in the upcoming November window, but also in the February 2021 qualifiers.

    However, making that happen won't be easy.

    First, Clarkson has just turned unrestricted free agent at the end of the season. That means that his representatives in Klutch Sports Group are likely to frown on him suiting up for Gilas, especially in such short notice.

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    The 28-year-old guard is coming off a stellar run for Utah this past season, averaging 14.6 points on 37-percent shooting from deep, to go with 2.4 assists and 2.4 rebounds and there's a high chance that the Jazz will re-sign him in the offseason.

    There's still no talks, though, regarding his contract situation and if a deal may indeed be sealed, it means that he also needs to secure a clearance from his mother ballclub.

    Remember also that his stint in the 2018 Asian Games in Indonesia was made possible by a "one-time exception" from the NBA, which allowed him, as well as Chinese peers Zhou Qi and Ding Yanyuhang, to play in Jakarta.

    Another issue will be Clarkson's status with the national team, especially with the SBP still holding out hope that Fiba will consider the 6-foot-5 swingman as a local.

    Talks have not progressed since the last time Clarkson's eligibility was tackled back in 2018, and calling him up for this window as a naturalized player is tantamount to the SBP accepting his fate and abandoning its appeal.

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    So will it happen?

    It's a long shot, but we've seen wilder things happen in Philippine basketball.

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    PHOTO: Jerome Ascano
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