THE Shanghai Sharks know Gilas Pilipinas well enough to take it lightly when they square off in an exhibition match dubbed 'Philippine-China Friendship Games' on Monday at the Mall of Asia Arena.
Wang Qun, head coach of the Sharks, admitted the Chinese Basketball Association ballclub did a little scouting on a Gilas team that is set to go full blast in its buildup for the Fiba-Asia men's championship in August.
“We did watch some of the game tapes of the Philippine team before the trip,” Wang said.
Wang apparently has done his homework, acknowledging that he also knows of Gilas coach Chot Reyes' move to field a team made up mostly of cadet players against the Sharks.
“I was expecting a full lineup of the team. But I’m not sure if they will play a full team,” the Sharks coach.
Wang declined to reveal more of what he knows, saying, "It’s a secret. I can’t say much because if I do, I will not be coaching tomorrow (Monday),” before breaking into a laugh.
But like Wang, team owner Yao Ming said the Sharks are taking the matches seriously.
“We fully respect our opponent. We are prepared. Hopefully, it will be an exciting game,” Yao said through an interpreter in a press conference on Sunday morning at the Solaire Resort and Casino in Paranaque City.
The Sharks will have a formidable lineup with Liu Wei, one of the players of the Chinese national team and a close friend of Yao, in the team.
Gilas, meanwhile, will have a mix of PBA talents and cadet pool members for the goodwill game with Marcus Douthit, Greg Slaughter, June Mar Fajardo and Japeth Aguilar set to take on the Sharks' tall frontline.
Gabe Norwood, Jeff Chan, and Gary David are the other PBA stars that will be on display while Slaughter, Kevin Alas, RR Garcia, Garvo Lanete, Matt Ganuelas, Jake Pascual, and Ronald Pascual complete the cast.
Yao reiterated that the goodwill games will strengthen the relations of China and the Philippines.
“The significance of this game is that both sides love the sport very much. Throughout this game, we can increase communication and friendship between the two countries by playing basketball," said the former NBA star.
“We are all passionate about the sport. But overall, it’s just a game. We can achieve a lot of things through playing this game. In the end, the two sides will be stronger because of playing this game,” said Yao, who was joined in the press conference by Philippine Sports Commission chairman Ricardo Garcia, Philippine Olympic Committee treasurer Julian Camacho, Chinese embassy officials, and the whole Shanghai Sharks squad.