MANILA – The NBA formally rejected the Philippines’ appeal to allow Cleveland Cavaliers’ Jordan Clarkson to suit up for Gilas Pilipinas in the 2018 Asian Games in Palembang, Indonesia.
The league may grant players permission to play for their respective national teams only in Olympics and FIBA competitions, NBA spokesman Tim Frank said in a statement on Sunday.
Frank reiterated that the Filipino-American guard may play for Gilas in the 2019 FIBA World Cup Qualifier in September since it will not interfere with the NBA’s regular season schedule.
Curiously Houston Rockets center Zhou Qi was given the green light to play for China in the Asian Games, a non-FIBA-sanctioned event.
“The NBA’s agreement with FIBA stipulates that NBA players can participate in the Olympics, the FIBA basketball World Cup, Continental Cup competitions, and associated qualifying tournaments,” Frank said.
“Because the Asian Games are not one of those competitions, NBA players are unable to participate,” he added. “In accordance with the NBA’s agreement with FIBA, Jordan is welcome to represent Philippines in the agreed-upon competitions.”
The NBA’s decision did not sit well with officials of the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas and the Philippine Olympic Committee.
After the NBA did not give Clarkson clearance to play for the Philippines in the Asiad, the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas – along with the Philippine Olympic Committee and the government, through the Department of Foreign Affairs –made a last appeal.
SBP president Al Panlilio criticized the American league’s “double standard.”
“Of course, it is very disappointing,” Panlilio said in a statement, pointing out that the NBA allowed Houston Rockets center Zhou Qi to play for China in the Asian Games. “I hope the rule applies to all consistently.”
POC secretary-general Patrick Gregorio was equally disappointed.
“I am at a loss for words. All I can say is ‘NBA, YOU BROKE OUR HEARTS,” Gregorio said in a separate statement. “You broke the hearts of 100 million Filipinos. We will never forget this. This ruling is one that will never be understood.”
“We tried our best. Your Philippine sports leaders worked round the clock. So many sleepless nights,” added Gregorio. “We were one clearance away … from a dear friend of the Filipino people. The NBA. Or so we thought.”
Special Assistant to the President Bong Go, who played a part in the SBP’s decision to send a team to the Asiad, was also critical of the NBA’s decision.
“While we respect their authority over their players, I cannot help but express my dismay over how one seemingly inconsistent rule allowed them to disregard a plea of a whole nation,” Go said in a statement.
“Sana po walang double standard at sana man lang, may puso ang NBA sa kanilang ginawang desisyon, lalong-lalo na kung ang nakasalalay ay ang basketball hopes and dreams ng isang buong bansa.”
The Philippines’ appeal cited the case of Chinese player Batere Mengke, who was allowed to play in the 2002 Asian Games despite having a live contract with San Antonio Spurs.
Allowing Clarkson to play for Gilas in the Asian Games “will be a symbol of inspiration to 100 million Filipinos,” Foreign Affairs secretary Alan Peter Cayetano stated in the joint appeal.
“(Clarkson is) proud of his Filipino heritage and thrilled that, in the Philippines, basketball is a religion,” Cayetano said. “He wants to represent the Philippines in the Olympics of Asia and make every Filipino all over the world proud.”
Gilas head coach Yeng Guiao included Clarkson in his 12-man lineup for the Asian Games after the Olympic Council of Asia and the Indonesia Asian Games Organizing Committee gave the Fil-Am guard clearance to play.
The Philippines hopes to improve its seventh place finish in 2014. This year it will open its campaign on Aug. 16 against Kazakhstan (10 a.m.) and face China on Aug. 21 (4 p.m.)./PN