Coach Tim Cone said it's possible Barangay Ginebra center Greg Slaughter will join Gilas Pilipinas in its gold medal bid for the 2019 Southeast Asian Games this December.
Speaking to reporters after the Gin Kings clinched a semifinals slot in the PBA Governors' Cup at the expense of the San Miguel Beermen, Cone said the inclusion of Slaughter -- who sustained a right thumb sprain two weeks ago in a Ginebra practice -- will depend on his progression in the final leg of the national team's preparations for the biennial meet.
"He's still not feeling 100 percent with that thumb. If he can show us he's 100 percent, then we will think about making a change at the managers' meeting and including him at that point. But he has to prove he's healthy and that thumb has full range of motion," he said.
Slaughter was not on the final 12-man lineup announced by the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) announced two days ago, but he made his case for a late entry Sunday when he logged 20 minutes and tallied 5 points and 4 rebounds to help Ginebra stop a Beermen march to the Grand Slam.
"Right now he's still 60, 70 percent. He'll join us in practices and we'll have an opportunity. If there's an injury or something, we'll still make changes at the managers' meeting the day before the tournament proper. That's December 3rd. It's a final 12, but there still could be changes, especially depending on how people feel after the quarterfinals," said Cone.
The coach said the same chance won't be extended to Scottie Thompson and Art dela Cruz, the two other cuts from the final Gilas pool.
"I tried to explain in the beginning that we would add six Ginebra players to the pool to help the coaching staff and model the players into the system. Art and Scottie ... really did that for us," said Cone. "Basically, unless we have an injury or something, they've done their job. And they've done their contributions to the country. It's a great sacrifice to come in there, do the work and not be able to play. But Art and Scottie have been incredibly unselfish and great guys."
Gilas will get either 9 or 11 practices in before their first game of the SEA Games on Dec. 4, with the number of sessions dependent on the results of the quarterfinals games on Monday.
"With this group, I think it's enough. Sure, I would love to have more time, more games to do certain things, but at this point, with the restraints that we have, I think that's enough. I think I can help them out enough that they can get into a system both defensively and offensively and have something to run that they can be pretty good at," said Cone.
With the first round of the PBA playoffs out of the way, Cone said he's relieved to finally spend all of his energy on helping the Philippines capture its 18th gold medal in the regional competition.
"I feel like I landed one plane. I feel like an air traffic controller at this point. Got a couple of planes circling up, going around and if I try to land them both at the same time, they're gonna crash so I gotta really focus on landing one and going out to try to land another. Of course, I'm talking about the SEA Games Gilas team," quipped Cone. "I really wanted to try to focus... the responsibilities for both situations are huge. For Ginebra fans, it's so important to achieve for them and then you gotta turn around and achieve for the whole country.
"The air traffic controllers ... those guys are under a lot of pressure, they do their job really well. I don't wanna cheapen the idea that I'm like them, but it's kinda the same situation. I don't wanna crash either Ginebra or the national team, so I'm trying to take it one at a time and I'm just glad I landed one plane already. Then I can worry about landing the next one."