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(c) Lorenzo del Carmen

2023 FIBA World Cup

PBA takes bold gamble on Gilas’ Asian Games campaign

PBA chairman Ricky Vargas admits that Asia’s first play-for-pay league is taking a significant risk by assuming responsibility for the country’s campaign in the 19th Asian Games this month in Hangzhou, China.

The former POC president stated that the PBA may face a substantial risk to its reputation and prestige if coach Tim Cone’s squad fails to perform well in the continental tournament.

However, it is a gamble that the PBA is willing to commit to for the flag and country.

“I’d like to add from the PBA perspective. We needed to have a board meeting and it was a special emergency board meeting because we knew that if we were gonna commit to the Asian Games, it can be a pass or a fail for the PBA,” said Vargas.

“There were a lot of risks that we had to take a look at. If you see this particular Gilas team, this is a PBA team. This is coached by a PBA coach and the governor of Ginebra (Alfrancis Chua) is going down and saying, ‘I will sit on the bench to be the team manager.’ The commissioner of the PBA (Willie Marcial) has also said, ‘I will sit as an alternate team manager.’”

The Asian Games come at a challenging time for Philippine basketball. Gilas Pilipinas is still reeling from a dismal FIBA Basketball World Cup 2023 campaign on home soil, which forced coach Chot Reyes to step aside after the team’s 96-75 victory over China in its final match of the tournament.

Players from the previous World Cup squad who play for professional teams abroad, such as Kai Sotto, Dwight Ramos, Jordan Clarkson, AJ Edu, Rhenz Abando, and Kiefer Ravena, are not available for selection due to their commitments to their respective clubs. Student-athletes from the UAAP and NCAA also cannot join because their seasons are about to begin at the end of the month.

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Cone himself received his mandate only a few days ago, which means that the PBA and SBP are working closely together with only a few weeks left before the big event.

“So the PBA is all in, all in. So if we fail, it’s high risk not only for us personally but also for the PBA. But when the board discussed this, we were just single-minded about it — eh kung hindi tayo kikilos, sino pa? At kung hindi tayo gagalaw, wag na lang tayo magpadala ng team Asian Games,” said the long-time PLDT executive.

“Isn’t that running away from a risk or responsibility because you are afraid to fail? The PBA has never been afraid to fail. This bunch of good governors have never been afraid to fail. We were not afraid when it was COVID and we’re not afraid today especially for a good cause, which is the Philippine team.

All things considered, the upcoming Asian Games can be seen as a suicide mission for Cone and his PBA-backed squad. Filipinos always want to win but can be particularly unforgiving when losses pile up.

But that is part of this gamble. The PBA may find itself in a no-win situation when everything is said and done. Ultimately, this is a risk the league is willing to take, and its stars are more than willing to go for glory despite the circumstances.

“Isa lang – if we don’t do it, who will? We’ll do it specifically for the Philippines and guess what, if you don’t want to play because you’re invited and you don’t come on time, then you’re out,” said Vargas.

“I learned that from Tim. Just talking to Al just now, he was telling me let’s just get people who want to play, who have their hearts for the team. Guess what — most of the PBA players want to play for the team.”

Written By

Lorenzo's a frustrated author who knows a thing or two about Football and Basketball. Went all green from Ortigas to Taft. Supports Liverpool FC, FC Bayern Munich and the Alaska Aces

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