IF plans push through, Gilas Pilipinas may find itself pitted against different NBA teams when it gears up for the 2014 Fiba-World Cup in Spain.
Indonesian tycoon Erick Thohir, part owner of the Philadelphia 76ers, has offered to help the Philippine national team by arranging a series of exhibition matches against the Sixers and at least two other teams in the world’s premier basketball league with which he has connections.
Thohir, owner of the Indonesian Warriors and president of the Asean Basketball League (ABL), is one of the most influential basketball figures in the Southeast Asian region, having established connections and friendship with several NBA team executives.
Thohir said he wants to help Gilas because he is proud that a team from the Asean region made it to the tournament featuring the basketball powers around the world.
“Being from Asean, we are so happy the Philippines qualified for the 2014 World Championship,” he told Spin.ph. “I am opening some of the players in the NBA summer league to give the team due training.”
“We need to support the Philippines more to achieve that (better showing in World championships). We will use our connections (in the NBA),” said Thohir. “We are happy for this feat."
"The pride of the Philippines is the pride of the Asean region.”
Thohir owns a stake in the 76ers, while best friend and business partner Jason Levien had just bought the Memphis Grizzlies. He said he wants to have two teams play tune-up matches with Gilas.
“I am open to discuss with my partners and friends not only in Memphis Grizzlies and Sixers, because I also know the owner of the Atlanta Hawks and other NBA teams. I think they are open to that (friendly games with Gilas),” he said.
Thohir said he immediately sent Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) a congratulatory message shortly after the national team clinched a berth in the Fiba-World Cup following its 86-79 win against Korea in the semifinals of the 27th Fiba-Asia Championship last week.
“Some of my friends are in different (NBA) teams. I think the more and more connections I open in other countries, it’s also for the region (Southeast Asia),” said Thohir.
“That’s really my dream to bring the Asean athletes to the world level. We have to work together and build the region. It’s 600 million people,” he added.
Thohir also revealed Indonesia Warriors star player Stanley Pringle, a Fil-American guard, was already being groomed to see action in the NBA summer league until he got injured.
“But Stanley was injured. Maybe next year, he will join the summer league. It’s an opportunity, but it’s not a guarantee … he still has to work hard,” said the billionaire sportsman.
“Again, it’s not a guarantee but through my connections and portfolio, I am willing to help the Philippines to have athletes in the bigger league like the NBA,” said Thohir, who also owns DC United in the Major League Soccer (MLS), where Syamsir Alam, the first Indonesian star booter, is now playing.
“I already proved that with Indonesia. I have one player in MLS already,” said the Indonesian, who is now close to acquiring ownership of popular Italian side Inter Milan.
His possible acquisition of Inter Milan is also one of the reasons why the billionaire sports executive is also open to the possibility of helping out the Philippine Azkals to get good exposure and tune-up matches outside the country.