Tab Baldwin rewards Andray Blatche with cheat meal after Gilas center goes on 'soup and salad diet'
Andray Blatche is all smiles after Gilas ruled the MVP Cup at the end of a week where the Gilas naturalized player went on a crash diet. Jerome Ascano

GILAS Pilipinas coach Tab Baldwin rewarded Andray Blatche with a cheat meal on Sunday lunch after going on a strict diet the past week.

Unknown to many, Baldwin requested his naturalized center to limit his diet to just soup and salad since he returned from his uncle’s funeral in the US.

“I was surprised he took that instruction on board … It’s no fun to starve yourself,” the American-Kiwi mentor said of Blatche, who is in a race against time to get back into shape before the Fiba Asia Championship.

“It wasn’t imposed on him. He did it voluntarily. That’s tough and he did.”

“And today at lunch, I told him to eat something,” he added. “So he was happy.”

That explains why Blatche has been huffing and puffing in the MVP Cup.

“He had no energy for this Cup and that’s not because he’s out of shape,” Baldwin said. “It’s because there was nothing going in the fuel tank.”

The diet appeared to pay dividends as Blatche showed improvement in Gilas’ last game in the MVP Cup, tallying 18 points, 12 boards, one steal, and one block in 20 minutes in the 90-77 win over the Taiwanese.

[See Fitting sendoff for Gilas]

“He shot the ball better tonight,” Baldwin said. “He took better shots. But he still isn’t getting baseline to baseline. Sometimes during the game, we need him to do that.”

“He’s aware of that,” he was quick to add. “He’s working on it, and he has the right attitude about working on it.”

Blatche declined to grant interviews after the game against Taiwan.

[See NZ coach says Gilas will be fine in Fiba Asia 'once Blatche gets more fit']

Follow the writer on Twitter: @KarloSacamos