Tuesday, July 12, 2011


By June Navarro, Philippine Daily Inquirer
The key stars of Fiba world champion USA aren’t the only ones set to help the country’s national squad shoot for an Olympic slot in the Fiba Asia championship. If plans don’t miscarry, the roster of NBA stars that will play charity matches here will include 2008 Beijing Olympian Kobe Bryant.

This was announced by Smart Sports head Pato Gregorio, who added that the final roster of the visiting NBA stars and the exact dates of the friendlies will be announced in a press conference on Friday.

“Smart Sports is happy and proud to support this worthwhile project,” said Gregorio. “This is chairman MVP’s gift to our basketball fanatic nation.”

Smart bankrolls the country’s national quintet, which campaigns under the Smart Gilas banner.
Reports had earlier tagged Kevin Durant, who won the Most Valuable Player award in the 2010 Fiba World Championship in Turkey, and fellow USA anchor and reigning NBA MVP Derrick Rose of the Chicago Bulls as the spearheads of the squad that will play against Smart Gilas and a PBA selection.

The games are likely to be played at the Araneta Coliseum.

“Everything is still up in the air,” said Butch Antonio, MVP Sports Foundation head for basketball. “The press conference scheduled on Friday is for us to be ready just in case the project pushes through. The dates are tentative. We’ll finalize as we go along.”

Aside from Bryant, the Los Angeles Laker superstar, Durant, the Oklahoma Thunder chief gunner and Rose, also invited were Oklahoma’s Russell

Westbrook, Sacramento’s Tyreke Evans, Mario Chalmers of the Miami Heat, Darko Milicic of the Minnesota Timberwolves and DeAndre Jordan of the LA Clippers.

The exhibition matches will benefit the MVP Sports Foundation (MVPSF), an organization put up by Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas president Manny V. Pangilinan.

The NBA players were invited as a treat to the fans by Pangilinan, who will celebrate his birthday tomorrow.

Pangilinan, who owns the Talk ‘N Text Tropang Texters and the Meralco Bolts in the PBA, came up with the Smart Gilas program specifically for the Fiba Asia Championship in Wuhan, China, on Sept. 15 to 25.
At stake in that meet is the lone Asian slot in the 2012 London Olympics.
Bryant, who led the Lakers to back-to-back championships in 2009 and 2010, is scheduled to kick off his five-city Asian tour here today.

Smart Gilas coach Rajko Toroman welcomed the development as the Nationals need as many practice games as possible prior to their stint in the Asian championship.
“We need all the games we could get after our trip in Europe was canceled,” said Toroman.


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