GILAS Pilipinas is expected to have its hands full when it battles a PBA selection in a game that serves as the centerpiece event of the 2014 All-Star weekend at the Mall of Asia Arena.
The Sunday showdown marks the first time the national team will play full force competitively as it gears up for the Fiba-World Cup in Spain and the Asian Games in Incheon, South Korea set later this year.
Coach Chot Reyes and the nationals last played together in front of basketball-loving Filipinos during the Fiba-Asia Men’s Championship when they lost to Iran in the gold medal match.
The PBA All-Stars are hoping to approximate the same competitive nature the Fiba-Asia meet provided to Gilas by vowing to give the nationals a good fight on a year the league celebrates the 25th year of the mid-season spectacle.
“We haven’t seen Gilas Pilipinas in action for about eight months and the way we look at it, the public will only have access to them (nationals) in action during the All-Star game,” said PBA board chairman Ramon Segismundo on Tuesday during a special Philippine Sportswriters Association (PSA) Forum at Shakey’s Malate.
Coached by Tim Cone, the All-Star team will be reinforced by two-time MVP James Yap, last year’s top rookie pick Greg Slaughter, reigning MVP Arwind Santos, last season’s Rookie of the Year Calvin Abueva, and former Smart Gilas team members Mark Barroca and Marcio Lassiter, among others.
“For not being members of Gilas Pilipinas, the All-Stars would also want to prove they are capable too of becoming a part of the national team if given a chance,” said PBA operations director Rickie Santos, who also graced the forum presented by Accel, Shakey’s, and the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp.
“So we expect the All-Star game to be closely fought.”
This will also be the first time the annual event supported by MoA, Solaire Hotel, Magnolia Purewater, Gatorade, and Maynilad, is going to be held in Manila since the 2003 edition held at the Big Dome.
“Very special and napaka-auspicious ng All-Star celebration natin dahil it’s the first time in a long while that it will be held in Manila, kasi lagi tayong sa provinces during the previous stagings. And this time sa isang world-class venue pa gagawin, sa Mall of Asia Arena,” added Segismundo.
A side bar to the All-Star game is the presence of both Slaughter and Lassiter in the PBA selection. The two players earlier declined their inclusion in the Gilas training pool, stressing the 12 members of the national team that suited up in the Fiba-Asia tilt last year deserve to be part of the official roster to the world basketball championship.
“Greg and Marcio will be on the other side of the fence, so magandang makita din how they’ll play against Gilas,” said Segismundo, who is also Meralco’s governor to the PBA board.
Last year, Gilas Pilipinas also played in the All-Star game against a similar PBA selection as part of the national team’s preparation for the Fiba-Asia meet. The match ended in a 124-standoff in Digos, Davao del Sur.
Not to be missed are the skills competition such as the slamdunk contest, three-point shootout, and obstacle challenge to be held on Friday, which will be capped by the game between Team Greats and Team Stalwarts, composed of PBA legends and current players.
There will also be a lot of off court activities for All-Star participants as they are set to visit the San Lazaro Hospital and Hospicio de San Jose, while a basketball clinic is likewise to be held at the MoA under the SM Cares for special children.
On Saturday, a fun run and meet and greet event are going to be held at the SM San Lazaro and SM Bicutan, while there will be a street party too at the MoA grounds.
A referees clinic and coaches clinic will be conducted by Cone on Sunday.