September 26, 2014
Oh how things have changed.
Entering the 2014 Asian Games in Incheon, South Korea, Gilas Pilipinas has been tipped to challenge for the gold medal after surprising the world with a performance to remember in the FIBA World Cup in Seville, Spain. Why not? We beat Giorgiu Dieng and Senegal. We came a shot and good breaks away from stealing a win over Croatia, Argentina and Puerto Rico. And admit it, Greece bled to beat us. Ask Kostas Papanikolaou, who was recently signed for two years by the Houston Rockets, if he knows LA Tenorio and he’ll tell you why.
I mean, after Spain, the sky is the limit for our boys and we’re ready to reclaim Asian supremacy after being dormant for decades. Nevermind that Andray Blatche, who played NBA ball for the Washington Wizards and Brooklyn Nets before recently inking a contract with a Chinese club, was not allowed by the scared Asiad organizers to see action due to lack of eligibility years. After all, we have Marcus Douthit, our other naturalized player, as an insurance.
After struggling to beat India, Gilas blew what could have been a won game over our old rival Iran in the preliminary stages before we faltered anew, this time against a Qatar team that we were tipped to beat. And then things started to turn for the worse. What was once a rosy picture turned into a ghastly sight. Everything is just in shambles.
Then the blame game.
HWASEONG, South Korea – Gilas Pilipinas’ quest for an Asian Games gold medal is in tatters. Worse, the team looks as if it is falling apart. Gilas coach Chot Reyes launched a stunning tirade against Marcus Douthit after a disappointing 68-77 loss to Qatar on Friday, ripping into the naturalized player not only for his performance but also for his actions inside the dugout at halftime. “We’re all disappointed in Marcus,” the national coach said after Gilas’ bid for the country’s first Asiad gold medal since 1962 was left hanging in the balance by a hot-shooting Qatar side. [See Gilas gold medal hopes left hanging after shock loss to Qatar] Douthit scored six early points for Gilas but faded in the end, hesitating on his jumpers and getting beat off the dribble by Qatar big man Erfan Ali Saeed in two crucial possessions in the fourth quarter. “They were all the men of Marcus. When we switched, he defended No. 11 (Erfan Ali Saeed) and he started burning,” said Reyes. Reyes was so unhappy with Douthit’s play that he made his feelings known after the game, accusing the 6-10 center of ‘quitting’ on the team during the crucial Group H match. “Our big guy, Douthit, just quit,” said Reyes. “Our big guy, the man we rely in the middle, just quit on our team. That’s very un-Filipino. I’m very disappointment with that development.” There had been palpable tension between Reyes and Douthit ever since the Gilas coach named NBA veteran Andray Blatche to his lineup for both the Fiba World Cup in Spain and the Asian Games. Douthit, who led Gilas to a runner-up finish in last year’s Fiba-Asia championships in Manila, only got the Asiad call-up when Blatche was ruled ineligible owing to the three-year residency rule for naturalized players.
Sportsmaryosep’s prognosis: I agree with coach Chot that Marcus, or Big Daddy to some of us, indeed played bad. But I would have to disagree that it’s exclusively Douthit’s fault. This is a team game, we win as a team, we lose as one. Did we blame Douthit when he led us to a silver medal finish, perhaps gold if he hadn’t gotten injured, in the FIBA-Asia Championship held right in our home soil last year that clinched us a spot in the World Cup where he was eventually replaced by Blatche? Hard to blame coach Chot also. This is probably his way of waking up the inner beast in Douthit. Perhaps it will work. Perhaps not. But the bottomline is that Coach Chot, like every single one of us, wants to win.
Despite the sad development, everything is not lost for Gilas. It’s not yet the end of the world. All we need to do is beat South Korea in Korea and then Kazakhstan, which by the way was being accused of tanking one of its first round games allegedly to avoid facing us in the second phase. I know, easier said than done. But if it’s the only way to do it, then we’ll do it. I’m still hoping the finger-pointing stops there. Because it’s never too late. And we will never tire of cheering for you Gilas Pilipinas, coach Chot Reyes and Marcus Douthit. Louder. Wilder. More passionate. And with more vigor. You’ll hear from us not just “puso” or heart. But also this thing we call faith. Yes, faith!
Follow Sportsmaryosep on Twitter: @JoeySVillar
(Photos courtesy of Jun Mendoza of The Philippine STAR, Smart Gilas Pilipinas and FIBA)