Gilas Pilipinas coach Tab Baldwin put up a brave front on Tuesday, saying he and the rest of the Nationals are ready to move on and continue with their work following the decision of prized guard Paul Lee to beg off from his national team duties due to a lingering knee injury.
Baldwin, 58, opted to stick with the positives despite the latest blow on the Nationals side which has already lost Barangay Ginebra center Greg Slaughter and versatile Tropang TNT wingman Matthew Ganuelas-Rosser to injuries, convinced all is not yet lost for Gilas Pilipinas in the July 5 to 10 cage event that serves as a qualifying event for the Rio de Janeiro Olympics.
While Lee and Jeff Chan, another injured Elasto Painters star, were reduced to mere spectators during the three-hour training session, the Nationals welcomed back Rain or Shine’s Gabe Norwood and San Miguel Beer gunner Marcio Lassiter in the fold, upping their attendance to 13 players, which somehow pleased Baldwin, 58.
“The story of the day is we took another step forward. We got Gabe and Marcio on the court,” said the American-Kiwi coach, keeping himself upbeat amidst the sorry development about Lee, who played a key role in Rain or Shine’s title run in the Commissioner’s Cup last week and was named the Finals MVP in the process.
“We certainly don’t want a negative issue to be the story of the day. I feel good about our training today and I thought it was very positive and I expect to keep getting positive training sessions.”
But Baldwin still could not hide the truth.
“Paul is out. That’s a tragedy for Paul,” he lamented.
“He’s had so many problems with his knees and body. We set a special prayer for him that he can get those things right.”
Lee suited up for the Nationals back in 2014 during the FIBA Basketball World Cup in Spain when Baldwin was serving as the team consultant to then Gilas mentor Chot Reyes.
Baldwin already knows what Lee is capable of doing, something that will be missed by Gilas Pilipinas.
“As for Gilas, that’s a misfortune for us because I said to him that we could certainly use your skillset and the way he was playing in the finals, I think he would be an asset for the team,” he said.
But the Gilas Pilipinas mentor admitted he won’t cry over spilled milk.
“We don’t have it, so I’m not going to sit around, crying over spilled milk. It’s reality,” he pointed out.
“It happens every single year. Hardly ever in my career have I gone in to a season or campaign with a fully healthy team. It’s part and parcel of being in sports,” Baldwin said, adding he wishes Lee nothing but the best.
“He’s a fallen brother and I hope that he gets back on his feet as soon as possible. As for Gilas, we’ll move on,” he said.
While Chan is dealing with his own injury woe and naturalized center Andray Blatche has yet to return to the country, Baldwin remained in high spirits as Alaska star Calvin Abueva has made himself available starting on Wednesday.
“Calvin will be in tomorrow,” said Baldwin.
“He had a personal issue, called me last night, and he informed me. We expect his energy and liveliness tomorrow.” – By Jerome Lagunzad
Follow this writer on Twitter: @JLFoxSports