Gilas Pilipinas coach Yeng Guiao thinks Andray Blatche can still play at the highest level of basketball, meaning the NBA.
Though the 6-foot-10 center has not seen action in that rarified atmosphere the past five years, Guiao said the New York native still has what it takes to compete with LeBron James and company.
“Ang tingin ko nga sa kanya, he’s still good for the NBA (I think he’s still good for the NBA),” said Guiao after Gilas practice Thursday night at the Meralco gym in Quezon City.
Blatche came straight from high school as the 49th overall pick (second round) of the Washington Wizards during the 2005 NBA Rookie Draft.
He played nine seasons in the NBA, including seven with the Wizards, and two with the Brooklyn Nets.
After the 2014 season with the Nets, Blatche suited up for the Philippine team for the first time that same year in the FIBA World Cup in Spain.
Blatche opted not to return to the NBA as he signed a $2.5 million one-year deal with the Xinjiang Flying Tigers in China. The following year, he inked a longer and lucrative $7.5 million contract with the same team.
At the moment, Blatche is with the Tianjin Golden Lions, also a franchise in the Chinese Basketball Association where he is averaging 18 points, 10 rebounds and 3.4 assists per game.
In an exclusive interview with Manila Bulletin last Sunday, Blatche hinted that he has no plans of returning to the NBA where he has career averages of 10.1 points, 5.4 rebound and 1.4 assists.
However, if Guiao can have it his way, Blatche – with skill sets and experience – should try and join a team bound for the playoffs where he can come off the bench and contribute.
“Ang kailangan nya lang a tingin ko is to get himself into NBA fit. He still has that NBA abilities and he still has the qualities (He just needs to be NBA fit.” said the national team mentor.
Blatche is preparing with the national team for the sixth and final window of the FIBA World Cup qualifiers as Gilas takes on Qatar in Doha on Feb. 21 and Kazakhstan in Astana on February 24. (Waylon P. Galvez)