PHILIPPINE basketball legend Jimmy Mariano said it's a good time as any for Gilas Pilipinas or any team for that matter to take on defending champion China, a team he considers to be in a state of disarray in the 27th Fiba- Asia Championship in Manila.
“Napanood ko yung games ng China sa TV saka kanina (Tuesday) sa actual. Tingin ko parang may problema ang China sa communication,”noted Mariano, a member of the last all-Filipino team to rule the Fiba-Asia (then known as the Asian Basketball Confederation) championship 40 years ago in Manila.
The 72-year-old Mariano, who was on hand to watch Gilas defeat Qatar, 80-70 on Tuesday night, said Greek coach Panagiotis Giannakis could be experiencing communication problems with his Chinese players, which he said could be one of the reasons for the basketball superpower’s anemic showing so far.
There are also reports from the mainland media of discontent among the players, largely because of the rigid training regimen of Giannakis.
Tournament insiders also revealed that there are clear signs Chinese players do not go along well with their coach.
“Sino ba ang coach? ‘Di ba Greek? ‘Di naman siya makapag-Chinese. Tatayo pa yung interpreter. Hindi direct ang communication,” said Mariano, a two-time Olympian who participated in the '68 Mexico and '72 Munich Games during the glory days of Philippine Basketball.
“Malaking bagay 'yan (communication) sa isang game. Alam mo naman ang isang game, segundo lang 'yan nagkakatalo,” he added.
The 6-foot-4 former national team mainstay, known during his playing days as 'Mr. Cool,' also expressed his admiration for the fighting heart of the Filipino team, whom he said is overcoming its height handicap in its bid to regain lost basketball glory in Asia.
“Impresed na impressed ako sa depensa na pinapakita ng team.They (Qataris) are bigger and taller, pero yung mga bata (Gilas), kita mo depensa nila, grabe,” said Mariano, whose long career included stints in the PBA, PABL and UAAP as a player, coach and consultant.