MANILA, Philippines – Smart-Gilas doesn’t stand a chance even if Kobe Bryant and company play with only one hand, but Serbian coach Rajko Toroman said the Nationals will not go down without a fight.
“We’ll treat it like any other game. We’ll stay aggressive as we prepare for the Jones Cup next month,” said Toroman.
The Nationals take their turn against the NBA All-Stars Sunday at 1 p.m. at the Araneta Coliseum.
The NBA stars make their debut against the PBA All-Stars Saturday at 7 p.m. also at the Big Dome.
Toroman said beating the NBA stars is a tall order, but it will give them a yardstick on how far Philippine basketball has gone.
“It’s going to be very diffi cult (to win), but it’s a good opportunity to gauge where we are in world basketball,” Toroman said.
Five PBA stars – Asi Taulava of Meralco, Dondon Hontiveros of Air21 and Jimmy Alapag, Ranidel de Ocampo and Kelly Williams of Talk ‘N Text – will reinforce the team that is training for the FIBAAsia championship in September.
Toroman doesn’t believe that the Bryant-led squad will take Gilas or the PBA All-Stars lightly.
“I heard Kobe asked a DVD of our game against Iran in the Champions Cup,” said Toroman in a phone interview yesterday. Gilas lost to Iran, 80-77, in the semifi nals of the tournament last June.
Aside from Bryant, the other NBA stars expected to arrive Friday in time for the press conference at noon at Gateway Cubao are Derrick Rose of the Chicago Bulls, Kevin Durant of the Oklahoma City Thunder, Chris Paul of the New Orleans Hornets, Javale McGee of the Washington Wizards, James Harden of the Thunder, Tyreke Evans of the Sacramento Kings, Derrick Williams of the Minnesota Timberwolves, and Derek Fisher of the Lakers.
Except for Bryant, who will come from Shanghai, the NBA stars will come from either Los Angeles or San Francisco, according to TNT coach Chot Reyes through the social networking site Tweeter.
Toroman believes the NBA stars will take the games seriously.
“Some people might say the NBA players are just going to take it easy and give the fans a show, but I disagree. All their teams in the NBA haven’t played in awhile so I’m sure they have undergone separate individual trainings to stay in shape. I think they’ll treat the game seriously,” he said.
Toroman is pinning his hopes on Chris Tiu, JV Casio, Mark Barroca, Dylan Ababou, Mac Baracael, Japeth Aguilar, and Chris Lutz.
Lutz, the 6-foot-3 guard, defended against the 6-foot-6 Bryant during an impromptu appearance last week, describing the Lakers star as “super strong.”
The NBA stars were getting ready for their trip and made it known through Tweeter.
“WHEELS DOWN in NY… in 2hrs WHEELS UP TO Manila!!! Big S/O to the Philippines… On my wayyyy!!! #yesirrrr,” Paul tweeted around 11 a.m. Thursday (Manila time).
Durant posted: “Headed to the Philippines tomorrow night… I can’t wait! Are yall ready?” McGee plans to do some planking, an Internet craze that involves lying face down in an unusual location with one’s arm held tightly to the body. A photo must be taken of the person who is planking and then posted on the Internet.
“Pierre is gonna find some cool placed (sic) to plank in Manila !!!!” McGee tweeted. Evans posted in his Tweeter page that he has finished packing for the trip.
“Just got finished eating lunch, finish packing for Manila. Gonna enjoy it,” he tweeted.
Williams, the only rookie in the team, said he wants to meet Manny Pacquiao in person. “I better see Paquiao (sic) too! Big pictures,” he tweeted. “What’s the American dollar worth in the Philippines.” (Karlo Sacamos)
Team: Los Angeles Lakers
Birthday: August 23, 1978
25.3 points, 5.1 boards, 4.7 assists, 1.2 steals
Kobe Bryant is the most distinguished among the nine players visiting the country this weekend. He has five titles, one shy of Michael Jordan’s rings, two Finals Most Valuable Player trophies, and one regular season MVP plum. He’s also a 2008 Olympic gold medallist.
Oct. 4, 1988
The 22-year-old Derrick Rose is the reigning NBA MVP and is the youngest ever to win the award. He led the Bulls to the best record in the league this season (62-20) and carried them to their fi rst Eastern Conference Finals stint since the Michael Jordan era.
Oklahoma City Thunder
Sept. 29, 1988
27.7 points, 6.8 boards, 2.7 assists, 1.1 steals, 1 block
Kevin Durant has led the league in scoring for two straight years. Despite his team’s youth, Durant has turned the Thunder into a title contender in just two years after finishing with a woeful 23-59 record in 2009.
New Orleans Hornets
May 6, 1985
15.8 points, 9.8 assists, 4.1 boards, 2.4 steals
It’s a tossup between Chris Paul and Derrick Rose on who the best point guard in the league is. Paul’s not a big-time scorer, but he can hurt you with his passing as he makes his teammates better.
Jan. 19, 1988 10.1 points, 8 boards, 2.4 blocks
This freak of nature is definitely one of the most exciting players in the NBA. His high-leaping ability can be translated into thunderous jams on offense and humiliating blocks on defense. He finished second to Blake Griffin in the last Slam Dunk contest.
Oklahoma City Thunder
Aug. 26, 1989
12.2 points, 3.1 boards, 2.1 assists, 1.6 steals
James Harden was a pivotal part of the Thunder’s recent playoff run, where they were just two wins from reaching the NBA Finals. The Thunder relied on his scoring when their one-two punch of Kevin Durant of Russell Westbrook couldn’t get buckets at some junctures.
Sept. 19, 1989
17.8 points, 5.6 assists, 4.8 boards, 1.5 steals
Tyreke Evans was the 2010 Rookie of the Year. He was only the fourth player after Oscar Robertson, Michael Jordan, and LeBron James to average 20 points, fi ve boards, and fi ve assists a game as a freshman.
May 25, 1991
(college stats) 19.5 points, 8.3 boards, 1.1 assists, 1 block
Derrick Williams is the second overall pick of this year’s NBA draft. Along with Spanish sensation Ricky Rubio, Williams is expected to help resuscitate a Minnesota squad that has had a losing season for the great part of the last decade.
Los Angeles Lakers
Aug 9, 1974
6.8 points, 2.7 assists, 1.9 boards, 1.2 steals
Like Kobe Bryant, Derek Fisher is a fi ve-time champion. He is also the president of the NBA players association, which is currently negotiating with the league’s owners.