This early, Gilas Pilipinas is pumped up and ready to exact revenge at Wael Arakji and the gutsy Lebanon squad.
Gilas assistant coach Tim Cone said they will definitely show up prepared and ready to rumble when they battle the Lebanese in the sixth window of the FIBA World Cup Asian Qualifiers in February.
Gilas suffered a massive heartbreak the last time they collided with the Lebanese.
Although National Basketball Association standout Jordan Clarkson saw action, the Lebanese refused to get intimidated with Arakji nailing a crucial three-pointer in the final 16.3 seconds to seal the 85-81 victory at the Nouhad Nawfal Sports Complex in Beirut last month.
Worse, Arakji — the Most Valuable Player of the Asia Cup — twisted the knife by saying that the Filipinos will have a hard time winning over them in front of their home crowd.
“When you are in my town, you go by my rules,” Arakji said in his post-match press conference.
“So, when you are in Lebanon, you go by our rules and that’s what we did for sure.”
But Cone said they have already put a circle on their calendars and couldn’t wait to settle the score with Arakji and the Lebanese when they meet at the Philippine Arena in Bulacan on 24 February.
“That should be a good game,” Cone said in an interview with Daily Tribune, adding that Clarkson and Kai Sotto are doubtful to see action..
“Lebanon, right now, is considered as the best team in Asia outside Australia and New Zealand. We don’t know who’s gonna be playing in that window. I doubt if Jordan Clarkson will be here by that time, but hopefully, Kai Sotto will be a part of it. That would be really exciting to get back at them.”
He added that he believes that the red-hot Lebanese are beatable.
“With a little more preparation, a little bit more understanding of what we do, we have a very good chance to win over them,” Cone said.
In a radio interview, Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas executive director Sonny Barrios confirmed that Clarkson and Sotto will not be around when they Gilas battle Lebanon anew.
After all, the NBA is entering the second half of the season by then while the National Basketball League of Australia is also at its peak.
“We’ll be playing Lebanon without Kai Sotto and without Jordan Clarkson so it’s going to be a lot tougher for us,” Barrios said.
Still, Cone vowed to show up prepared to gain redemption and exact revenge from the Lebanese.
“We went to Lebanon with Jordan Clarkson basically having only two practices while Kai had maybe three, four practices,” said Cone, whose wards are gearing up for their road games against Jordan and Saud Arabia for the fifth window of the qualifiers.
“Still, we went into their den, played them tough and to this day, we feel we could have won that game because we made a couple of mistakes down the stretch. Those were unfamiliarity mistakes.”
“But for now, with the Monday practices and the core intact, I think we’re gonna be a lot, lot better team. I look forward to playing Lebanon again — and having them come to our den this time, that makes a difference.”