Iran men's basketball coach Mehran Shahintab expects a "quality and very good game" when the former three-time Asian men's basketball champion plays Gilas Pilipinas Monday night in the fifth window of the 2019 FIBA World Cup Asian Qualifiers at the Mall of Asia Arena.
Shahintab already confirmed that longtime Iran national players Hamed Haddadi and Nikkhah Bahrami won't be playing in what is considered a crucial match in the two teams' bid to make the FIBA World Cup in 2019.
The Iranian mentor said Haddadi is out for "personal reasons," though what he heard was the 7-foot-3 slotman may have signed with another ball club in the Chinese Basketball Association. On the other hand, the 35-year-old Bahrami is now living in the United States.
Haddadi, then nursing an injury, played just less than a minute in Iran's 81-73 win over Gilas last September, while Bahrami sparkled with 21 points, eight rebounds and four assists.
But even though both veterans are ruled out, Shahintab remains confident of what his young team can do against a Gilas side that will enjoy a huge home-court edge.
"We know the Philippines is a great team. They will use their home-court advantage but we will try our best to have a good game," Shahintab said. "I think you will be challenged. I expect a very good game, a very quality game because both teams need a win. So quality of the games will be up."
Iran, though, has lost its last two games by an average margin of 21.5 points after bowing to Japan and Australia, respectively. The Iranians are currently at second spot with their 6-3 card, while the Filipinos follow suit with their 5-4 record.
A win by Gilas puts Iran in a tie for second spot at Group F, thus enhancing its bid for the World Cup set next year in China.
The Iranian coach believes the entry of Jayson Castro, along with Troy Rosario and Christian Standhardinger can make the game more interesting.
"We know this game [on Monday] will be completely different because hey are coming with some new players," he said. "The other players, I know them and their home court will make the difference because they have very good fans."