Robin Lopez spent three days this week in the Philippines at a basketball training camp. The country appears to have left a very strong impression on Lopez, as he has declared his interest in joining the national team as a naturalized citizen.
Via Karlo Sacamos of The Philippines Spin, Lopez was very clear about his intentions:
“If the whole Andray Blatche thing doesn’t work out, I’m here for Gilas,” Lopez said on Thursday after conducting a training camp organized by Gatorade and NBA Philippines at the Hoops Center in Mandaluyong. “I don’t wish any harm to come to Dray because obviously he’s played his heart out for that team and he’s a great fit,” the Portland Trail Blazer said, referring to Blatche, who reinforced Gilas as a naturalized Filipino in the recent FIBA World Cup.
“I’d love to (play for the country). I realized the passion these people have for basketball,” said Lopez, whose brother Brook played with Blatche at Brooklyn in the last NBA season.
FIBA only allows one naturalized citizen on any team at a particular time, so Lopez would only be able to suit up for the Philippines should Blatche decide to cut ties with the team.
Whether that happens remains to be seen. Even though the Philippines didn’t make it out of the group stage at the FIBA World Cup, Blatche averaged 21.2 points and 13.8 rebounds per game in the tournament, and put up highlights like this one:
The team really warmed up to Blatche after some doubts when he joined them. By way of Jorge Sierra of HoopsHype here’s what team captain Jimmy Alapag said:
“The type of relationships he built with the guys on the team in one month and a half and the effort in games and practices really said a lot about Andray,” Alapag told HoopsHype. “We were on the road together for about a month. That helped a lot to build that camaraderie and get to know Andray better. He was committed to the program from Day 1 and I think it showed.”
Blatche’s off-the-court troubles have been well-documented and are the main reason why he remains a free agent and has never been able to cash in big in the NBA in spite of consistent production on the court. When he was granted the Filipino citizenship, there was some concern around the Gilas Filipinas squad about his attitude. At the same time, they were willing to give him a clean slate, Alapag said.
“We all knew [the baggage] was there, but it was a long time ago and we didn’t want to judge Andray by what happened, but on his performance and his attitude and his committment. I was really happy with his approach to joining a team on such short notice and really fighting out there with the rest of us.”
By all accounts, it was a mutually beneficial relationship between Blatche and the team, which means Lopez will probably have to wait his turn.
The Philippines are one of the smaller national teams in the world, so there’s always a need for size. If Blatche doesn’t stay with them long-term, Lopez would be the ideal choice as a replacement.
What do you think?
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