THE much-awaited tune-up game pitting Gilas Pilipinas against a team of NBA players failed to push through on Tuesday night when the visiting US stars were barred from playing by the American professional league.
Thousands of fans who bought expensive tickets to watch the game at the Smart Araneta Coliseum erupted in boos upon realizing that all they could watch were NBA stars and Gilas players performing practice drills on the court.
Officials told Spin.ph an NBA representative called about 5 p.m. to inform organizers that the league's stars, led by James Harden of the Rockets and Damian Lillard of the Trail Blazers, would not be allowed to play in what amounted to an unsanctioned event.
"Hindi pinayagan mga players na lumaro eh. Bawal daw talaga. Parang ligang labas sa atin," an official said.
The game, which formed part of Gilas' preparations for the Fiba World Cup in Spain and the Asian Games in Incheon, South Korea, was supposed to start at 7 p.m. and fans started to grow impatient waiting for a game that never happened.
During that time, sources said organizers were in frantic negotiations with NBA representatives in a bid to salvage the benefit games.
However, the visiting NBA stars were only allowed to take part in drills and nothing more. It was later announced that Gilas players would be playing in a scrimmage game by themselves.
Updates about the cancelled Gilas-NBA game:
It was Gilas coach Chot Reyes who announced to the fans that there won't be a tune-up game between the NBA players and the national team, saying "there won't be a game tonight" before performing some drills with the players.
Disappointed fans storming out of the Big Dome were seen registering for refunds by organizers.
In a press conference, organizers admitted the NBA players were threatened with suspensions if they pushed through with the game. The NBA official maintained the players were not allowed to play in other games even during the offseason without the league's permission.
A similar game staged by the same group in 2011 that featured Kobe Bryant, Derrick Rose and Kevin Durant was not barred by the American league because it was staged during the NBA lockout.
Here's a video of what transpired during the event: