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    Any chance Blatche, fellow naturalized players can play in the PBA?

    Dec 29, 2021
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    OVER the last three days, we've seen two former Gilas Pilipinas heroes in Andray Blatche and Marcus Douthit took to Twitter to raise the possibiity of naturalized players being allowed to play in the PBA.

    "I wanna come play," Blatche, the former Washington Wizard who played for Gilas from 2014 to 2019, tweeted on Sunday.

    Douthit, the man Blatche replaced, followed with his own tweet two days later.

    Both tweets have generated quite a buzz online, specially from grateful fans who no doubt want to see Gilas naturalized players in the PBA, perhaps on a special exemption and not as imports.

    Is it possible?

    Not to dampen your enthusiasm, but PBA commissioner Willie Marcial was frank enough to say that the league isn't even considering the option.

    "Hindi ko nakikita na mangyayari sa near future," said the commissioner.

    Under current rules, Marcial said naturalized players like Blatche can only play in the PBA as imports, as what Douthit had done with Blackwater in 2017 and with Air21 on a special exemption given by then commissioner Chito Salud in 2012.

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      League insiders agreed that granting special exemptions to allow Blatche and Co. to play as locals can be mutually beneficial to both the PBA and the Gilas program, especially if the naturalized players are given to bottom teams like Blackwater and Terrafirma to balance out the competition in the pro league.

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      For Gilas, the PBA opportunity could keep Philippine-based naturalized players like Ange Kouame sharp in between his national team and UAAP commitment.

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        However, insiders also bared a lot of things need to fall into place before such a special exemption can be granted, beginning with the high wages of Gilas naturalized players like Blatche.

        In his prime, Blatche, now 35, was paid upwards of P20 million per two-, three-tournament stretch, insiders claimed.

        "So sino magbabayad sa ganoon kalaking pera?" said one source.

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