MANILA, Philippines – Jordan Clarkson may have gotten the NBA's clearance to play in the 2018 Asian Games but it is highly unlikely that he will be able to make it in time for the Philippine team's first game.
The Nationals will have to field an incomplete 11-man lineup with the Filipino-American arriving in Jakarta, Indonesia on the same day they square off with Kazakhstan at the GBK Basketball Hall on Thursday, August 16.
Game time against the Kazakhs is at 10 am (11 am in Manila) and Clarkson is expected to land in Jakarta at about the same hour, according to Asian Games chef de mission Richard Gomez.
Having the Cleveland Cavalier in the fold would have been a huge boost for the Filipinos, but national team head coach Yeng Guiao and his wards have prepared for the worst case scenario.
"It will be unfair to him (Clarkson) if we asked him to play coming from the US without any rest. We are ready to play Kazakhstan without Clarkson," Guiao told Rappler through text.
"We prepared our game plan without him. We have to hold the fort until he's ready. By the time we play China, he should be ready."
Bunched with powerhouse China in Group D, the Philippines has little margin of error against Kazakhstan, especially since the winner between them will likely determine who will be the last team to book a quarterfinals ticket.
The Filipinos were originally bracketed with Iran, Syria and UAE in Group B before they were transferred following Palestine's pullout from Group D.
The change in groupings benefitted Iran and Syria as they advanced to the Final 8 thanks to UAE's withdrawal, but it made the Philippines' campaign for a quarterfinals slot a lot harder.
If anything, the Filipinos will bank on their familiarity with the Kazakhs from the previous times they locked horns.
Back in the 2014 edition of the quadrennial showpiece, the Philippines nipped Kazakhstan, 67-65, in a controversy-marred game that saw the Filipinos try to score in their own goal in an attempt to force overtime.
Needing 11 points to have a shot at advancing to the semifinals, naturalized player Marcus Douthit scored in the Philippines' own goal during the endgame but it was overruled by game officials.
The Philippines landed at 7th place – its worst finish in men's basketball in Asian Games history – while Kazakhstan ended the tournament at 4th place.
With how things stand, what better way for the Filipinos to redeem the country than shutting the door on the Kazakhs early into the tournament.
"Our chances are pretty good," Guiao said. "Yes we lacked preparation time, but the guys caught on real quick. We are ready to compete. We know what is at stake and we are committed to give our best for the country." – Rappler.com
Delfin Dioquino dreamt of being a PBA player, but he did not have the skills to make it. So he pursued the next best thing to being an athlete – to write about them. He took up journalism at the University of Santo Tomas and joined Rappler as soon as he graduated in 2017.