The Philippine basketball community was caught off guard late Thursday night when the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) made a decision to no longer send a team to the 2018 Asian Games in Indonesia.
In a statement, the SBP said "the time and chance to participate in the 2018 Asian Games would not be optimal" and that the withdrawal would "allow our national team and organization to regroup, prepare for the process of appealing the FIBA Disciplinary Panel's recent decision, and aim for sustainable success in future tournaments."
The decision came just hours after SBP had a meeting with the PBA and its board of governors, where they finalized the decision to have Rain or Shine players make up the core of the national team, along with a few Gilas Cadets, NLEX big man Asi Taulava and potentially Jordan Clarkson of the Cleveland Cavaliers.
The last time the Philippines did not participate in the Asian Games basketball tournament was in 2006 due to a FIBA suspension which was brought about by a conflict between the Basketball Association of the Philippines and the Philippine Olympic Committee.
SBP president Al Panlilio told ESPN5 over the phone Friday morning that "it was a hard decision" to opt against sending a team to Indonesia.
"We're trying to regroup ourselves and really work together to prepare for next FIBA window," he added.
Panlilio also said the FIBA ruling regarding the July 2 brawl between Gilas Pilipinas and the Australia Boomers somewhat had an effect.
"Obviously, because our original plan of sending a core of TNT players was affected. We are working on our appeal," he said.
Yeng Guiao, who was tapped to coach the Asiad-bound team, revealed that the lack of personnel led to the SBP's decision to withdraw. Guiao had a list of players in mind who can reinforce the core of Rain or Shine players but none of these players were made available. This prompted him to ask SBP top officials what they expected the team to achieve in the quadrennial meet.
"It's hard to go there without knowing the objective of the team. Are we trying to go there for participation or are we serious contenders? I told them if this is our lineup, we might not be serious contenders," said Guiao, noting that other countries were sending their best teams.
"If we were able to get key players, maybe we can still compete. But because we didn't get any, I just said that we can lower our expectations," he added. "From there, the SBP asked if it's really worth sending a team if we're not prepared and we lack the materials."
In a meeting attended by Panlilio, SBP chairman emeritus Manny V. Pangilinan, SBP Executive Director Sonny Barrios, Philippine Olympic Committee president Ricky Vargas, Gilas coach Chot Reyes, and Rain or Shine coach Caloy Garcia Thursday night, the basketball federation decided that it would not be optimal to send a team.
"That was the consensus. Let's just prepare for the next window and focus on the appeal instead of spending our time and resources on a stint [where] we'll be unprepared and without the necessary personnel," said Guiao.
While he's looking forward for a chance to coach the national team again, Guiao agreed with the decision.
"I was very thankful to SBP for making me the national team coach for three days without even seeing my team," he quipped.
"It's OK with me because why would we go there if we're not ready? Are we just going to allow ourselves to get beaten? As a coach, I also want to win and I also want to bring pride to our country but the opposite might happen if you're not prepared."