Gilas Pilipinas program director Tab Baldwin is taking a wait-and-see approach to the bubble FIBA has mandated for the next two windows of the 2021 FIBA Asia Cup qualifiers.
"It's just so early to make any definitive statements what will be. But in general, I'm pleased that we're going to be back playing basketball soon," Baldwin told reporters Monday evening.
FIBA announced Sept. 18 the qualifiers set to be held in November and February and should be conducted in 'bubbles' instead of home and away games. Each bubble will either consist of four or eight squads, while the hosts are set to be announced at a later date.
Gilas is 1-0 in Group A, where it is joined by South Korea, Thailand, and Indonesia. The Philippines is set to face rival South Korea on Nov. 27, and Thailand three days later. Gilas will face Indonesia on Feb. 18, 2021, before closing the third window against South Korea on Feb. 21.
"The fact that FIBA wants to do it this November is a bit of a surprise. Let's view it as a pleasant surprise that we're going to be back to playing basketball and hopefully we can be part of the landscape to returning the world to some set of normalcy, giving fans the opportunity to get back to cheering for the national team. Get back to cheering for the sport," Baldwin said.
Despite the long layoff from sports, he assures that the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas is ready to make moves for the national team.
"We never stopped talking but until you have definitive timelines and definitive schedules from your own government and FIBA, all you can do is talk," Baldwin said. "There's literally nothing to announce but you know, we are as ready with as many scenarios that we have discussed through that you can possibly imagine," he added.
While the qualifying games are still months away Baldwin says Gilas still doesn't have a coach. Mark Dickel served as interim coach in the first window earlier this year.
An all-Gilas cadet team is not an option since there are not enough players to make a full roster. A process to naturalize a player is still pending, so it may be an all-local lineup.
"The timeframes aren't really that positive but we're hopeful. This whole process has been derailed by the pandemic and we haven't been able to move with our timelines the way we would have hoped back in the beginning of the year," Baldwin said.