San Miguel Corporation is in hot waters after Filipino basketball fans accused them as behind the decision of Greg Slaughter and Marcio Lassiter pulling out of the Gilas-Pilipinas pool to the FIBA World Cup and Asian Games.
Slaughter and Lassiter's Withdrawal
It was reported earlier that San Miguel Beer’s Lassiter and Ginebra's Slaughter won’t be joining the Philippine national men’s basketball team’s pool bound for the FIBA World Cup in Spain this August.
“Today (yesterday) I would like to inform everyone about my situation with Gilas. For me, it wouldn’t feel right for me to take away from the players who deserved to be there, the 12 guys who played before. They rightfully deserve it,” Lassiter said during the press conference.
“I’ve experienced this being a part of Gilas 1,” he added.
According to Lassiter, it would only be fitting for the original members, the ones who helped the team qualify for the World Cup in the FIBA Asia Championships, to continue the task in the coming event in Spain.
“I felt they have unfinished business to handle. If I will be in the same position as them, for someone to come in trying to take my spot, it would be hard for me to give up something I rightfully deserve. That’s the reason why I’m withdrawing my name from the national pool,” added Lassiter.
A member of the original SMART-Gilas team formed in 2009, Lassiter clarified that it was his personal decision.
“But this wasn’t a management decision. This was totally personal,” he added.
“I want to say it on the record, San Miguel does not have any decision on this.”
Slaughter, earlier, announced that he will not be joining the pool, opting to forego his inclusion in the pool and not take away any of the 12 spots from the regular roster.
Lassiter explained that he and Slaughter also talked about it, but the decision wasn’t collective.
“We talked, but this is more from our own personal reasons,” Lassiter said. “I’m pretty sure Greg has his own reasons.”
Reyes convincing Lassiter and Slaughter
Coach Chot Reyes made an effort to convince Slaughter and Lassiter not to withdraw from the pool of players training to represent the country in two international basketball events this year.
The two men announced their withdrawal from the pool on Wednesday, a decision they had told Reyes last Monday.
“Kinausap ako nung dalawa after nung practice on Monday to tell me nga that they were begging off because they didn’t want to take a slot away from anyone of the 12 players na naghirap noong FIBA Asia,” said Reyes.
“So sabi ko naman sa kanila, dalawang bagay: The 12 players told you that they don’t mind, and that’s a fact. OK lang sa ating mga 12 players na may pool. Alam naman nila yun eh. For them, kung ano lang ang makakabuti sa team.
“And No. 2, sabi ko, the pool is not only for the World Cup. It’s also a pool for the Asian Games. And for the Asian Games, you are not taking away anybody’s slot. Siyempre labu-labo yan for the Asian Games.”
But Slaughter and Lassiter had more reasons for begging off.
“Sabi ni Greg Slaughter he needs to strengthen his body. He needs to continue working on his game,” said Reyes.
“Si Marcio yung injury niya from a year and a half ago, kailangan pa daw mag-heal, so I took it at that.”
Reyes said the loss of Lassiter and Slaughter was a big blow to the program.
“Sayang lang, because I really think that they could have added a lot to the pool. Greg could have added a lot because of his height and Marcio Lassiter a lot of his toughness to the pool, to the team, and for the country,” said
Reyes, adding that the loss of the two men narrowed his options for the two upcoming tournaments.
“Mahirap kasi yung sitwasyon namin dahil wala nang pagitan eh, between the FIBA World Cup and the Asian Games. They’re only a few days apart, kaya wala na talagang chance, kailangan ma-desisyunan na agad nang maaga. That’s the reason why I wanted to have a pool, I wanted to have the luxury of having different lineups sa FIBA World Cup and then have a different lineup sa Asian Games, kaya gusto ko sana mas madami.”
In the end, however, Reyes accepted the decision of Lassiter and Slaughter.
“That’s their decision and we have to respect it. Hindi naman ako yung type ng coach na nagpipilit ng players kung ayaw he,” said Reyes.
“I’ve always this from Day One, kailangan kung sasama ka dito, bukal na bukal sa loob mo. You have to be 100 percent committed.”
Amid the withdrawal of two players, Reyes said he’s not planning to name additional players to the pool.
“We’re fine. We have 15 players now in the pool. If Andray Blatche gets naturalized then we will have 16. I think we have enough,” said Reyes.
“That was one of the reasons naman why we had that number of players eh.
We had 16 from the PBA plus Marcus Douthit, that makes 17. Because alam ko naman when you’re in that kind of situation, when you’re training and preparing, there will always be fallout. May aayaw, may ma-i-injure, may magkakasakit diyan".
Reyes added that there’s no guarantee that new players won’t also beg off.
“Kung mag-i-invite din tayo ng ibang players… we run the risk of them saying no, so you know, minabuti ko na lang that we stick with the players that we have,” said Reyes. “We have 15, 16 players na talagang all-in na sila. Lahat sila fully-committed to the cause.”
The giant conglomerate, which owns three teams in the PBA and controls as much as six if you believe talk in the grapevine, had not been too eager to lend players to this version of the national team which, it should be pointed out, is run by people associated with the rival MVP group.
For the team to the last FIBA-Asia championships alone, San Miguel's three teams loaned a grand total of four players to Gilas, namely Marc Pingris from San Mig, June Mar Fajardo from Petron/San Miguel, and LA Tenorio and Japeth Aguilar from Barangay Ginebra.
However, it should be pointed out that Aguilar and Tenorio were already part of the Gilas pool even before they moved to the Ginebra camp. In effect, the San Miguel teams never really went beyond the one-player-per-team policy agreed upon by the league board.
Now comes the new Gilas Pilipinas pool where national coach Chot Reyes added five players to the original lineup that finished second to Iran in the last Fiba Asia championship in Manila, thereby earning a place among the world's finest in the Fiba World Cup in Spain.
Interestingly, from the five new faces Rain or Shine's Paul Lee and Beau Belga as well as Meralco's Jared Dillinger jumped at the chance to suit up for Gilas while the two players from San Miguel-controlled teams - Slaughter and Lassiter - have suddenly dropped out.
Possibilities of other players pulling out
The withdrawal has now put Lee, Belga, and Dillinger in very awkward no-win positions.
With Slaughter and Lassiter's decision to step aside, the three may have been unwittingly painted as the 'bad guys' for showing the willingness to compete with the Original Twelve for spots in the Spain-bound team.
Also, team insiders also pointed out that if it was Slaughter and Lassiter's intention to let the Original Twelve have the honor of playing in the World Cup as reward for their hard work in the Fiba Asia championships, they could have stepped aside for Spain tournament and made themselves available for the Asian Games in Incheon, South Korea where their services are certainly needed by Gilas.
According to league insiders, Reyes was left stunned when Slaughter and Lassiter informed him of their decision to pull out of the pool during Gilas' first practice on Monday. He accepted the two's decisions but at the same time told them to be the ones to "explain their decisions" to the people, the source added.
One person close to Reyes perhaps summed up the national coach's feeling.
"Si Slaughter at Lassiter pa lang 'yan. Si Slaughter nga kasama pa sa original pool," he said. "Papaano pa kung kinuha n'ya si Mark Barroca, Arwind Santos, etc."
But more than the effect the two withdrawals will have on the Gilas campaign, the development have once again showed the divisions within a board that, after the Fiba Asia success, had vowed to stand solidly behind Gilas and the national team program.
Regardless of whether the suspicions on San Miguel are true or not, the lines in the league have sadly once again been drawn again, with Gilas caught in the middle. And expect the divisions to show between now and the national team's campaign in the World Cup and the Asian Games. --- with reports from Spin.ph
Lassiter and Slaughter withdraw from the Gilas Pool; Coach Chot Reyes was unhappy but accepts their decisions
Reviewed by Jay-R Bayon-on