Practices critical as Gilas grapples with lack of tuneup games

Coach Tim Cone's Gilas Pilipinas will have to make do with their limited sessions together as they deal with the lack of practice games to prepare them for the 2019 Southeast Asian Games.

Cone knew the situation before he agreed to take the interim post but said, "why worry about something I have no control over?"

Gilas instead will put a premium on their weekly practices -- something Cone believes could be as beneficial as any potential practice games.

"I can't pull 15 guys from the league and say, 'OK, I'm, gonna pull a bunch of practice games.' I can't practice with PBA teams 'cause they're in the middle of the season. So what's the recourse? The recourse is to make sure we practice as well as we can," he added.

Gilas will get to play a tuneup game with assistant coach Jimmy Alapag's Alab Pilipinas from the Asean Basketball League (ABL) at some point next month.

"We don't want to come out and play half-baked," Cone said about the tuneup. "We wanna play hard and ready."

Cone isn't alone in stressing the importance of practice as the players have also bought in. Monday night Gilas had perfect attendance even though nine of its members -- Ginebra's Stanley Pringle, Japeth Aguilar, Scottie Thompson, LA Tenorio, Art dela Cruz and Greg Slaughter, and San Miguel's trio of June Mar Fajardo, Marcio Lassiter and Chris Ross -- played in a PBA game the night before.

Joining them were TNT's Jayson Castro, Troy Rosario and Roger Pogoy, NorthPort's Christian Standhardinger, and Phoenix's Matthew Wright. "It's exciting because it seems like everybody's buying in," Cone said. "I told the players I came here thinking two or three guys wouldn't show up because that's just kind of like what the national team goes through. But we had all 15 guys today and we want them to keep coming. We're real proud of all these guys for still showing up.

"This is for something greater than themselves. I think that's what's driving them, what's motivating."

Cone said he and the staff are repaying the players by "making sure we have the right kind of practices" which is currently focused on defense.

"I really want our guys to be thinking defense, I want our guys to be talking about defense, and I want them take great pride in defense," Cone said. "We have great offensive players and they're also great athletes. The really great defensive players are athletes. If we can get them thinking defense and using their athleticism for defense, I think we can put up a really good product together out there."