Will Yeng Guiao’s gamble on Jordan Clarkson pay off?

Coach Yeng Guiao and the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) are actually taking a notable risk by including Jordan Clarkson in the final roster for the Asian Games in Indonesia.

ABS-CBN’s Dyan Castillejo reported last night that the Indonesia Asian Games Organizing Committee (INASGOC) gave the go-signal for Clarkson to play in Indonesia. But if the NBA doesn’t clear the Cleveland Cavaliers guard for action, the Philippines will be left to play with only an 11-man lineup for the rest of the tournament.

They’re willing to make that gamble, though.

“That’s one of the things we discussed with officials. We’ll take the risk. Kasi kung wala kang ibigay na slot tapos pinayagan siya, di rin siya makakalaro. Pero kung nasa list na siya, the disadvantage is 11 lang tayo. But that’s the risk we can take,” Guiao told reporters during a Smart-backed practice on Friday at the Meralco Gym.

That decision was a no-brainer for the staff and for officials. Having Clarkson on board would be a massive boost, after all. The 26-year-old guard averaged 13.9 points, 2.7 rebounds and 2.7 assists on 45.1 percent shooting from the field and 35.2 percent shooting from three-point range — both career-best marks — in a combined 81 games for the Cavs and the Los Angeles Lakers this season.

“It’s big,” Gabe Norwood told FOX Sports Philippines about the possibility of Clarkson suiting up. “Anytime you can have an NBA-caliber player, especially someone who’s eager to play and show to the country what he can give, it’s always huge. I think everybody is excited about the news, and we gotta stay ready and do our jobs here and see what happens.”

Chemistry would be the next hurdle that Clarkson and the team will wrestle with as the tournament edges closer. Already facing problems in its preparation due to SBP’s initial pullout, incorporating the Filipino-American into the lineup and system poses an even trickier task.

But Guiao and Norwood aren’t sweating it.

“Eh kung kasing galing naman ni Clarkson makakasama mo, siguro that’s a good problem [to have],” Guiao said. “I’m sure with his experience and his IQ, madali niyang makukuha sistema. Napaka-simple lang naman ng sistema natin.”

“He’s a high basketball IQ guy,” said Norwood. “Personality wise, there won’t be a problem too. We also had the pleasure of meeting him when he was with the Gilas program, ran up and down with us in a couple of practices. If he gets here, it’s definitely a big plus.”

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