Replacement for Pogoy? Cone won't have to decide until December 3

Gilas Pilipinas to skip SEA Games opening ceremonies (2:07)

Tim Cone and Gilas Pilipinas plan to skip the Southeast Asian Games opening ceremonies in order to fit in more practice time. (2:07)

Gilas Pilipinas plans to secure a medical release for Roger Pogoy to free up a spot on the Southeast Asian Games roster. Coach Tim Cone will most likely choose from Greg Slaughter, Scottie Thompson, or Arth dela Cruz -- the three players cut from the 12-man lineup.

"We haven't decided that. We don't have to decide that until December 3rd in the managers' meeting," said Cone when asked who will take Pogoy's slot. "But at this point, it's obviously gonna be Greg (Slaughter), Scottie (Thompson), or Arth (dela Cruz) because those are the guys that are here and have been with us, and are doing the work and know the system and everything."

Team manager Gabby Cui said Wednesday that Pogoy has been ruled out of the biennial meet because a bulging disc he suffered Monday when the KaTropa booted out the Magnolia Hotshots in the 2019 PBA Governors' Cup quarterfinals. The injury, which caused nerve irritation in the lumbosacral joint, will keep him out for a week before he can start rehab.

Cone said losing Pogoy was "huge" since the team lost its "best two-way player in terms of offense and defense."

"He's a great defender, a great shooter, and he can create his own shot. Really, I think one of the young and up-and-coming premiere players in the league. Eventually, he's gonna be a top 3, top 5 player in the league, I think. As he gets a little bit more notoriety, and he's been in the league a little longer, he's gonna get that kind of [respect]. So losing him is huge as well," he rued.

Adding Jayson Castro, who successfully recovered from a right soleus strain that kept him out for a month, back to the pool was an option, but Cone said the star guard begged off in order to focus on his health before TNT jumps back into semifinals action.

"He was amazing, and he's had an amazing conference. He might win Best Player of the Conference or maybe even MVP," said Cone. "We did inquire whether he could come back, but he's got a couple of injuries that he's battling, and he's afraid to get back in and get re-injured again with us, so the two weeks' break that he's gonna get before the start of the semifinals is valuable to him. We totally understand that."

Even without the duo, Cone said the team still has enough in its arsenal to assemble threats from the backcourt and the wings.

"We can still put a really good shooting team out there if we want to. And, we've still got a lot of versatility in our line-up. Point guards are really strong. So we feel good about where we are," Cone described. "We would have liked to have kept those two guys around, but I mean, those are the things you don't have control over. So control the things you do, and we got our guys that we need and we want."

Gilas buckled back to work and began the first of its nine last practice sessions before its first game on Dec. 4 against Singapore.

On hand were San Miguel's June Mar Fajardo, Marcio Lassiter and Chris Ross; Barangay Ginebra's Stanley Pringle, Japeth Aguilar and LA Tenorio; TNT's Troy Rosario; NorthPort's Christian Standhardinger; Alaska's Vic Manuel; and Phoenix's Matthew Wright. Slaughter, Thompson and dela Cruz were also present.

NLEX's Kiefer Ravena was absent after undergoing MRI testing on a minor elbow injury he sustained in the Road Warriors' quarterfinals loss to the Batang Pier Wednesday.

"The key is I don't want to exhaust them, so that they'll be fresh, but I still need, we need to do extra work," Cone said about their final leg of preparations. "We're not doing conditioning drills or heavy running drills. But we're doing some transition drills, up and down, so the guys aren't getting out, but it's more through teaching than anything else. Not, through conditioning. These guys are at the end of their rope right now."

Cone said Gilas won't be able to make the opening ceremonies in favor of a two-a-day session on Nov. 30, but he said the team will take time to go out and watch other sports to show support for other Filipino athletes.

"Bottom line is ... all the athletes in the games have had a year or more to prepare for this tournament, for the SEA Games, and we basically have a week. And we cannot afford to have less time off our practice," he explained. "If we're not gonna be in the opening, we'll show our support somewhere else."

"I think that's important for these guys to show their support for the other athletes. We don't wanna sit up on our perch and pretend we're different from everybody else. We wanna make sure that we are doing that."