Yeng Guiao begins scramble to prep for Asian Games

The past and present members of the Rain or Shine Elasto Painters that make up the core of the team that will represent the Philippines in the Asian Games reunited for the first official scrimmage at the Meralco Gym in Pasig City.

The first order of business was a refresher course on coach Yeng Guiao's system.

Magnolia's Paul Lee and Rain or Shine's Raymond Almazan seemed excited to be playing together again.

Lee was traded to the Hotshots in 2016 for former two-time PBA MVP James Yap.

Lee, Almazan, and Yap are now all teammates and part of the roster of 14 tapped by Guiao, the PBA, and the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) to represent the Philippines in the quadrennial event.

Guiao arrival at the gym coincided with the news that the Philippines was moving to a different group for the preliminary round.

The Philippines are now in Group D with China and Kazakhstan. Palestine withdrew from the competition and the Indonesia Asian Games Organizing Committee (INASGOC) put the Philippines in Palestine's place so that Group D would have three teams.

The Philippines was originally in Group B with Iran, Syria, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

"My staff and I were already watching UAE in their game against Oman this morning," Garcia said to ESPN5. "But now with this development, we'll have to look for new video of our opponents. Now we have to go back to square one."

Only San Miguel Beermen rookie Christian Standhardinger, who is still competing in the PBA Commissioner's Cup finals, was absent from the scrimmage.

Blackwater Elite's Poy Erram is dealing with an illness and was the only player present but not in uniform.

"I'm excited but at the same time, I'm nervous," Erram said. "I'm excited because I'll be under coach Yeng Guiao but I'm also nervous because it is my first time to represent the country. If I were given the chance to play, it will truly be a blessing."

Beau Belga and Almazan are eager to see Erram in action.

"I see a lot in Poy," Belga said in Tagalog. "I've always wanted him to be my teammate. Imagine if my teammates were Poy Erram and Raymond Almazan -- then that would be fun."

Almazan echoes the sentiment.

"I've always admired his work," Almazan said in Tagalog. "I was so concerned about his injuries in the past and now that he's healthy, I want to see how we can work together."

The pool of 14 players will be trimmed to 12 for the tournament. No one is guaranteed a spot yet as the INASGOC still needs to review everyone's eligibility.

"All we got was clearance that the Philippines will be competing in the men's basketball tournament," Barrios said. "Now, who gets to play is still up in the air. So the sooner we get that final roster, the better."

Guiao will not have much time to work to get everyone on the same page.

"The thing with coach Yeng's system, it requires time," said Chris Tiu, who played under Guiao for five years and was the skipper of the original Smart Gilas program. "With Rain or Shine, it took him months and probably even years to get everybody accustomed and to assimilate it for it to become second nature. Doing that in ten days is [going to be a] tall order."

Guiao confirmed that the team will practice every day leading up to August 13 when they depart for Indonesia.