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    'Worried' NBA players decided not to play after emergency meeting, says agency

    Jul 22, 2014
    Kawhi Leonard of the Spurs participates in the drills. Jaime Campos

    THE agency that helped organize the 'Last Home Stand' event featuring Gilas Pilipinas and NBA players said the players held an emergency meeting on the morning before the Tuesday match after they received threats of possible suspensions from the US league.

    Maria Espaldon of East West, the agency responsible for bringing in the NBA stars, said the meeting was held by the Toronto Raptors guard Kyle Lowry, who received a phone call warning him of sanctions if the players pushed through with their participation in a five-on-five game.

    “Kyle Lowry actually had a call and he was very worried,” Espaldon said.

    Espaldon said the threat of suspensions from the NBA prompted the players, which also included Portland's Damian Lillard, Demar DaRozan of the Raptors, Tyson Chandler of Dallas, and James Harden of the Rockets, not to go through with a tune-up against Gilas Pilipinas.

    “They actually picked up the phone and (the caller) threatened them with penalties and suspension,” said Espaldon in a hastily-called press conference to explain the foul-up that led to the cancellation of the match.

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    “The players were not worried about the penalties. They were worried about the suspension because it might be career ending. They were worried.”

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    Espaldon said the NBA was clearly informed that the event was for charity.

    “We explained everything to them that it was a charity event for the victims of Haiyan, that this is something we were doing to help Filipinos devastated (by the typhoon),” said Espaldon.

    Samahang basketbol ng Pilipinas president Manny V. Pangilinan himself apologized for the foul-up that caused the cancellation.

    Even the Gilas Pilipinas players were surprised with the sudden change from game to mere workout, and a source later said some officials now face the ax after the embarrassing cancellation of the event.

    For his part, PLDT’s Ariel Fermin said the company organized the event with ‘due diligence.’

    “I just want to say that PLDT did our job. It’s something that we are very responsible. Then we learned this afternoon that the 5-on-5 game will not push thorough,” said Fermin.

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    Kawhi Leonard of the Spurs participates in the drills. Jaime Campos
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