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I am, quite honestly at a loss. I woke up earlier this morning to the news that Gilas 3.0 is scrambling to form a national pool a few short weeks before the start of the 2015 FIBA ASIA tournament while the rest of the powerhouse teams have been practicing for weeks now. What sucker punched me however, was the news that many holdovers from the Gilas team in Spain, are unsure to return to the team. No JuneMar, or Paul Lee, no LA, maybe no Ping and no Marcio. 2 years and a day ago, on the eve of the FIBA ASIA competition held in the Philippines, I wrote this blog post; Dear Gilas Pilipinas  and now, here we are again. So I would like to get things off my chest, and I promise I will do my best to be nice, and cut out all the cuss words that are running through my head as I try to process the fact that a year removed from our return to the world stage in Sevilla, nothing much has changed.

Dear Almighty PBA Commisioner, PBA Board of Governors, and SMC Overlords,

Sirs, a blessed Sunday to each and everyone of you. you don’t know me, I am not some big important personality, or someone with clout, heck i can’t even get to 200 followers on twitter. I wont blame you if you consider me a nobody, but I would still like to introduce myself. My name is Nigel, and I have been a basketball fan ever since my grandfather put up this makeshift basketball hoop when i was about 3 years old, and told me to shoot it like Jaworski, you guessed it, I’ve been a Jaworski fan since that very moment. Like millions of young Filipinos, the streets were my playground, makeshift courts at kantos, playing for ice water or pop cola, dreaming of playing in the PBA one day while hoping to get the chance to  meet Jerry Codinera or get Alvin Patrimonio’s autograph.  Unlike the talented few who made it to PBA rosters throughout the years however, I along with other dreamers, learned to let go and move on to different careers, still playing ball on the weekends or company leagues, and living out our hoop dreams vicariously through the PBA. yes, I may have a name, but i can be just any other Filipino who loves basketball and the PBA.

Last year, I was fortunate to have already been  living in Europe when the FIBA WORLD CUP in Spain electrified the basketball loving world. I took a week’s leave of absence from the team i was coaching even if it was at a pivotal point in our preseason, to fly to Seville to be one among the thousands of Filipino fans who went there to make sure that our contingent had a rousing welcome back to the world stage.

Gilas before their first game in Sevilla

Gilas before their first game in Sevilla

My seats were at the nosebleed sections, but every Gilas game i would try to charm, or scurry past the guards and ushers to be able to sit courtside. I was successful every time too, probably because my determination, or maybe desperation to be as close to the action was was so clearly etched out on my face, they didn’t have the heart to say no.

Sirs, i was behind the Croatian bench when they were panicked and flumoxed, not knowing how to stop the barrage of Jeff Chan in the closing minutes of Gilas’ first game, the Croatian coach, cursing and sighing with relief as they escaped with that overtime victory. I sat behind the Gilas bench when the frustration showed as they couldn’t close out Greece in a game they were in for 35 minutes. Sirs, I jumped out of my seat when Gabe threw down on Luis Scola and was reduced to a grown assed man crying and bawling while the Argentine bench erupted in cheers in front of me as our team’s rally, led by the mighty mouse Jimmy Alapag fell short. I cursed as we lost to Puerto Rico, and I held up my Thank you Jimmy sign,my voice long gone from screaming as we finally defeated Senegal and Giorgu Dieng for our first victory.

jerseys given by Gilas Players

jerseys given by Gilas Players

What’s the point of all this you may ask? it is really quite simple sirs, through our team’s victories in FIBA ASIA and all through the FIBA world cup, this team galvanized Philippine basketball that has sunk into unfathomed depths of stagnancy specially in international competition.MVP deserves all the praise and accolades he is getting for reenergizing Philippine basketball, but you want to know the funniest thing? we the fans only saw them for what they were, FILIPINO PLAYERS, NOT A TEAM PLAYING FOR A CORPORATE SPONSOR.OR A CORPORATE RIVAL

There have been reports and allegations that SMC is no longer willing, as in the past to loan out their talented players to the Gilas squad. now players like JuneMar, LA, and Marcio are being branded as heartless, guys only motivated to play for money, no sense of patriotism or nationalism as their excuses to beg off from National Team duties are skewered by a public no longer buying into the same old.. well, BS.

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It cannot be a coincidence that suddenly all of these players begged off, and almost all of them belong under one umbrella corporation. and as long as the PBA and the SMC stay silent on this issue we will never ever progress, you would have done a disservice to your fans and to your country. As i read LA’s reasons, citing injuries and a dip in form, I find it hard to believe that this is the same LA Tenorio who got into a shoving match with a Greek player because he felt that he disrespected our team by making a 3 pointer at the end of the game with Greece comfortably ahead. I find it hard to believe that JuneMar, this same giant of a man, who came into his own in Seville and played a monster season, would beg off, just because of plantar fascitis. no matter how that hurts, how can you really say no to the flag when an OLYMPIC BERTH is on the line not to mention, a spot in the 2019 FIBA WORLD CUP that we are bidding on hosting. who would say no? shouldn’t every player on every PBA team be dying for a spot in the line up?  shouldn’t the PHILIPPINE BASKETBALL ASSOCIATION do every thing it can to ensure that the best players are available for stakes this enormous? do you see what’s wrong with this picture, most esteemed gentlemen?

At a time where the best players in the NBA are scrambling  all over themselves and everyone else to get to a team USA minicamp to make sure they are atleast in the conversation for the national pool, and where even Andrey Blatche’s Chinese team refuted reports that they are not allowing him to suit up for the national team, and where a retired legend, you honored in a retirement ceremony has signified his willingness to come out of retirement to play due to a lack of players available, WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU DOING???!!!

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If you gentlemen feel like, business wise the PBA will lose money if the stars wont play for half a conference, heck, the PBA survived the best of what the MBA offered, the PBA lived through the infamy of the Fil Sham scandal, what makes you think the fans will turn away from the product even if the stars aren’t there? they will do the opposite, they will shower you with gratitude for allowing your best players to fight for the country’s stake at an Olympic berth, and a return to the World Cup!

you feted the Gilas players as heroes upon their return from Sevilla, yet you now allow them to be branded as traitors by a basketball loving nation who clearly sees the self interests that pulls the strings behind the curtain. At the very least, don’t let our basketball heroes take the fall for the greed and antipathy and envy that forced them to make half hearted excuses to beg off from National team duties. Atleast don’t insist on wearing the white hat and pretend to be on moral high ground. It’s not too late, you can start the next PBA conference late, or shorten it, or whatever. just please allow our best to play for our flag. If you cannot find a way to do this, then you might as well change the name of the PBA, remove the P because you surely don’t stand for the Philippine basketball fan. If you do not allow your finest players to play for our country just because a competing sponsor has their company logo attached to the jerseys, what does that say about your sense of nationalism, or at the very least, your loyalty to your fans who have stood by and cheered for your teams and your league throughout these years?  if the PBA does not act on this, if SMC  will stand by its decision, then  have the balls to admit to your fans, how you are screwing them,  how you are screwing  the national team out of a possible Olympic berth and a triumphant return to the World Cup, just for the bottom line.Yet like a lot of my basketball crazy countrymen, i still hold out hope.  I, we, beg you one last time to let the players play. #LabanPilipinas #puso

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