THE two-game friendlies Gilas Pilipinas will have against the Adelaide 36ers over the weekend is like hitting two birds with one stone.
Aside from having it as part of the national team's preparation for the FIBA World Cup, the tune-up matches is also a way for the country to forge ties anew with Australia following the infamous brawl that marred the world championship qualifiers between the two countries last year held at the Philippine Arena in Bulacan.
Coach Yeng Guiao bared Wednesday that initially, it was planned to have a friendly game between Gilas and the Boomers as the two are in the thick of their preparations for the World Cup.
"We suggested that we play the Australian national team week before, but our schedules could not match," he said during the sendoff launch for the Philippine team, which also served as a welcome party for the 36ers held at the Meralco Multi-Purpose Hall.
"So the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) did the next best thing which is to invite the Adelaide 36ers, which I thought would be good for Philippine basketball as we wanted to erase some of the memories of the past and replace them with good memories."
The entire SBP group led by Chairman Emeritus Manny V. Pangilinan and President Al Panlilio, along with PBA Commissioner Willie Marcial, came in full force to show their sincere effort of burying the hatchet with their Aussie counterpart.
The 36ers, with no less than owner and CEO Ben Kavenagh on hand, appreciated the gesture and hospitality of the host.
"We wanted to come back here and play and show people that it was just one incident and we can come back here and play, and we'll be OK," said 36ers coach Joey Wright, who played as import for Presto during the 1992 PBA season.
"Nothing like that will happen, so it's just one incident and we want to let it go."
Still, Guiao expects a tough competition from the visiting Aussie side, a four-time champion in the National Basketball League (NBL).
"We know they play high-quality basketball, world-class. That's why we also wanted to play them because we understand that this is going to be a big help to our preparation," said the Gilas mentor. (RG)