THE Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas said the communication lines with Jordan Clarkson remain open, but admitted major hurdles need to be cleared before the Los Angeles Lakers' Fil-Am guard can suit up for Gilas in the Fiba Olympic Qualifying Tournament in July.
SBP executive director Sonny Barrios said the basketball body is still touch with the family and representatives of Clarkson, who has expressed his desire to play for the national team of his mother's homeland and had in fact joined Gilas during its stint in last year's Jones Cup in Taipei.
However, the NBA sophomore's stint with Gilas in the Fiba Asia Championship was derailed by his lack of clearance from Fiba and a conflict in schedule with the start of the Lakers' training camp.
"We're talking to them. The talks are alive. Hindi naman 'yung, 'Pagasa pa ba 'yan? Sagot ko, 'Hindi na kami nag-uusap.' We're still talking to them," Barrios told Spin.ph when asked about Clarkson's availability for the qualifiers which the Philippines will host from July 4-10 at the Mall of Asia Arena.
"Buhay pa, nag-uusap pa, there's still light at the end of the tunnel. Hindi lang ganun pang kaliwanag," he said.
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Barrios said the SBP will have to wait for the result of talks between Clarkson and the Lakers before taking the next step, which is to secure a clearance for the 6-5 guard to suit up for the Philippines in international play.
Fiba won't act on the Clarkson case unless the Lakers and the NBA give the player a clearance, he added.
"Inuuna kasi natin na magkausap muna sila ng Lakers, bago tayo humingi ng formal approval ng Fiba. Being an active NBA player, hindi rin kasi gagalaw ang Fiba hanggat hindi resolbado yung sa Lakers' side, sa NBA side. Pag nagka-intindihan na yung dalawa, saka pa lang tayo dudulog sa Fiba," said the former PBA commissioner.
However, Barrios admitted they are closely watching developments with the Lakers, especially since Clarkson's contract will expire at the end of the season and - judging from his current form - he is bound to get a multi-million, multi-year deal from the NBA's glamour franchise.
That should impact on Gilas' chances of securing Clarkson's services, Barrios admitted.
"Sa status ni Jordan, parang siya yata ang unofficial heir apparent ni Kobe (Bryant) eh. Parang siya ang gino-groom na heir apparent ni Kobe eh," said Barrios. "Syempre, aside from 'yung (question kung) papayag ba yung lakers, siyempre yung costs. Yung cost involve baka di natin kayanin."
Insuring Clarkson's contract alone will entail a huge sum, if and when he gets a lucrative deal.
"Naka-ready tayo in terms of, 'We are willing to look into it.' Pero yung dollar sign, hindi natin alam kung magkano ang ibibigay ng Lakers. Eh kung masyadong prohibitive, patay tayo dun," he said.
"So kunwari ten million (dollars) ang naging sweldo nya a year. Hindi mo naman ibibigay yung ten million, ang babayaran mo yung premium. Hindi ako aware sa percentage, pero sabi nila 30 percent nga daw. Kung ten million dollars, e di magkano yun? Three million dollars (insurance)," he said.
"Sa ngayon kasi, any activity ni Clarkson outside of the Lakers that may endanger his contract negotiations, he is on his last year eh. So siguro yung mga magulang and Clarkson himself, they're looking at a juicy longterm contract.
"Titignan talaga natin kung pupuwede o hindi pwede. Ayaw ko rin kasing sabihing suntok sa buwan (pa ang pagkuha kay Clarkson). I don't want to say din na 50-50, kasi there's an even chance," Barrios added.
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What bolsters Barrios' confidence is Clarkson's expressed desire to play for Gilas.
"Si Clarkson himself, alam niyo naman ang personal na anunsiyo niya, talagang gusto niyang makalaro. Pero from their side, yung bigger consideration yung multi-year, multi-million contract na makukuha nila," he said.
With the NBA regular season nearing its final stretch (the Lakers are nowhere close to making the playoffs in Bryant's final season) and the Olympic qualifier still six months away, Barrios said there is also plenty of time to sort out the Clarkson situation.
"Aabot naman 'yan. We are hopeful na before July, nagka-usap na ang Lakers at ang Clarkson family," he said.
[Listen to Sonny Barrios' interview here:]