SEVILLE, SPAIN - Gilas Pilipinas coach Chot Reyes took a deep breath then proceeded to answer the one question running through the minds of most Filipino cage fans in the wake of Andray Blatche's eligibility row.
Why did he name Blatche to his Asian Games lineup despite the risk of ineligibility?
"We can play it safe but not win it," came Reyes' firm reply when asked about the threat of disqualification hanging over the head of the NBA veteran that cast doubt on Gilas' gold-medal quest in the Asian Games kicking off in Incheon, South Korea in mid-September.
Yes, Reyes admitted he was well aware of the danger that Incheon organizers will likely invoke an ambiguous residency rule to try and keep Blatche out of the Gilas lineup, even before he made the decision to name the former Brooklyn Net to his Asian Games team.
That decision has come under scrutiny now, more so since Reyes had the safer option of naming Gilas' other naturalized player, Marcus Douthit, to the Asian Games team.
Reyes, who has never been one to take the safe route, has decided to once again roll the dice in this case.
The Gilas coach said he feels Blatche represents the best chance for the Philippines to end a gold-medal drought in the Asian Games that stretched back to 1962. Or to put it plainly, Reyes said he feels Gilas can't win the Asiad gold without Blatche in the lineup.
"We were well aware of the risk," the five-time PBA Coach of the Year said. "(But) with Blatche, we have a chance. Of course we all love Marcus and we all know what he can do but...."
"We're going all out because we want to win the gold," he added.
To stress his point, Reyes said we can only look back at the Philippines' tuneup game against the Mike Fratello-coached Ukraine side last August 18 when Gilas - without Blatche and Paul Lee in the lineup - never had a chance and lost by a good 50 points, 64-114.
In contrast, Reyes feels Blatche can handle the Haddadis and Davises and - as he had proven in the series of tune-up games the team has played over the past month - give Gilas the inside-outside threat that could give opponents tons of problems in the Asian Games.
"Nakita n'yo naman sa (game against) Ukraine. Wala si Blatche, tinambakan tayo," Reyes said.
As for the eligibility issue, Reyes was certain none of it would have cropped had Asian teams not seen how good Gilas was - and how big a threat it can be in the Asiad - with Blatche in the lineup.
"Natatakot lang ang ibang countries, especially in Asia. They know that there’s nobody in Asia that can stay with Blatche," he told Spin.ph. "He's an advantage that we can exploit against the Haddadis and Davises."
"Tinitira lang talaga tayo ng Korea."
Reyes said he consulted with officials of the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) before making the decision to tap Blatche for the Asiad. At this point, he can only leave the nitty-gritty to them while he worries about the team's campaign in the Fiba World Cup.
"I cannot afford to think about that," said the multi-titled coach. "My focus is here. I leave that to the people who are in charge of that."