MANILA, Philippines – The national men’s basketball team is absorbing another setback.
Veteran Gilas Pilipinas point guard LA Tenorio announced he is taking a leave of absence from the national team to take a much-needed rest as he tries to regain his old form.
“Matagal ko na rin pinag-isipan ‘to habang nagbabakasyon ako. Feeling ko ngayon kung maglalaro ako sa national team and then dire-diretso ulit pagdating ng season, I think it’s going to be unfair for both parties,” the 31-year old said in an interview with Dennis Principe on Sports Chat Tuesday, July 28. “Kasi siyempre dire-diretso na ako naglalaro ng 4 na taon. Feeling ko 'yung fatigue factor (is there).”
(I’ve been thinking long and hard about this since I started my vacation. I feel that if I play for the national team and then go straight to the next PBA season, I think it’s going to be unfair for both parties. I’ve been playing non-stop for almost 4 straight years. I feel the fatigue factor is there.)
“Leave of absence lang naman this year (It’s just a leave of absence this year),” added Tenorio, who has been with Gilas since 2012. He was part of the Gilas 2.0 roster which won the 2012 William Jones Cup gold with Tenorio as Finals MVP.
“Kung talagang tatawagin pa ako next year sa national team (If they still call me up for the national team next year), I’m ready to play any time.”
Dip in play
Tenorio explained he feels he could no longer play effectively both for the national team and his mother ballclub Barangay Ginebra. He cited his lackluster performance this past PBA season, where Barangay Ginebra didn't make it past the quarterfinals in all 3 conferences.
His numbers dipped from an average of 11.19 points in the 2014 season to 9.95 points this year, taking far less field goal attempts in the 40th season. He also went from 5.49 assists to 3.89.
“Very evident kasi nung past season talagang bumaba yung laro ko. 'Yun 'yung nagiging factor, I think, fatigue factor na nangyayari (It was very evident this past season that my play dipped. I think it’s because of the fatigue factor),” he explained, adding he also has to fully heal his body from various injuries.
Tenorio was part of the Gilas squad that won silver in the 2013 FIBA Asia Championship. He saw action in the 2014 FIBA Asia Cup and then the FIBA World Cup as well as the Asian Games.
“For me, coming up with this decision, siguro magiging fair sa national team andat the same time sa Ginebra. Kasi kung dire-diretso lang din ako na maglalaro for national team baka hindi rin ako maging effective," Tenorio said.
“Yung naging output ko last conference sa Ginebra baka madala ko pa sa national team. Madadamay naman yung national team,” he added.
(For me, coming up with this decision, perhaps it’s only fair for the national team and at the same time to Ginebra. If I play non-stop again for the national team I might not be as effective. I might just carry over my output in Ginebra to the national team. They will only be badly affected by it.)
He did not deny as well the immense pressure he feels to deliver for the Gin Kings’ impatient title-hungry fans, who last experienced a championship in 2008.
“Sa akin malapit sa puso ko 'yung national team. Alam naman ng lahat yun. Talagang gustong-gusto ko maglaro for the national team (The national team is close to my heart. Everyone knows that. I really want to play for the national team),” he said.
But Tenorio also said: “Siguro it’s the right time na rin para magbakasyon ako kasi hindi na rin ako bumabata e. At the same time, with the Ginebra team, na sobra 'yung demand siyempre. Lalo na yung mga fans....Alam 'nyo naman yun pag natatalo kahit pati pamilya ko nadadamay sa batikos na nakukuha ko.”
(Maybe it’s the right time to take a vacation because I’m not getting any younger. At the same time, with the Ginebra team, the pressure is really huge. Especially with the fans....You all know what it is like when we lose, even my family is dragged into the criticism I get.)
He said he also wants to be fair this time, especially with multi-titled coach Tim Cone now at the helm, and stop missing Barangay Ginebra’s first day of practice.
“Siguro to be fair na rin kay Coach Tim and sa team namin, time for me naman siguro to focus from day one (To be fair to Coach Tim and my team, it’s time for me to focus from day one),” he said, also noting the short gap between the Gilas stint and the PBA season that is also a cause of concern for Tenorio.
The Gilas squad under Coach Tab Baldwin is set to compete in the FIBA Asia Championship from September 23 to October 3 in Changsha, Hunan, in China, where they are eyeing the gold medal and the outright 2016 Summer Olympics berth. The new PBA season begins soon after the team’s return on October 18.
The decision of the 5-foot-9 guard to take a leave of absence is another blow to the Gilas Pilipinas pool that’s already experiencing personnel problems, though the roster is yet to be announced.
Back-to-back PBA MVP June Mar Fajardo’s inclusion in the lineup is questionable due to plantar fasciitis injuries on both feet, which the 6-foot-10 center has been playing through since the Governors’ Cup playoffs.
The participation of forward Marc Pingris is also doubtful due to a scheduled trip to France that will make him only available when he returns on August 12.
In a new development, naturalized center Andray Blatche has reportedly not been released to play for Gilas by his Chinese Basketball Association team Xinjiang Flying Tigers
Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas Sonny Barrios, however said Tuesday morning at the Philippine Sportswriters Association forum that “Blatche has a contract with Gilas.” – Rappler.com