Better basketball is obviously as broad as they come, but all roads lead to the 2023 FIBA World Cup which is set to be the highlight of the year.
The world’s best basketball players will likely set foot in the Philippines and co-hosts Indonesia and Japan, battling for basketball supremacy. NBA stars, the best of the Euroleague, and of course, Filipinos plying their trade abroad will take part in the greatest gathering of basketball players since the Philippines last hosted the tournament (back when it was known as the FIBA World Championship) back in 1978. Team USA hasn’t always sent their best but look for Luka Doncic, Giannis Antetokounmpo, and two-time and reigning MVP Nikola Jokic to fight for the flag and country (barring any unfortunate events).
Competitions and tournaments are plentiful, but they all pretty much adjusted to the FIBA World Cup. Local leagues like the PBA, NCAA, and the UAAP have or will likely make changes to their schedules largely due to their players being part of the final roster for Gilas Pilipinas.
International tournaments for 2023 still have their value, but some teams will now focus on using these competitions in their buildup to the FIBA World Cup. The 2023 SEA Games still has some allure, especially with the Philippines hoping to get back the gold medal after losing it in a heartbreaker to Indonesia but now it’s also a means to determine the final cuts.
Speaking of Gilas, much has been said about their preparations over the past year and during pretty much the entire pandemic. Playing decisions and all things coaching became a hot topic with every loss and at times even during wins.
Credit, though, has to be given to how Gilas has made some adjustments following the flak they received. The addition of Tim Cone to the Gilas coaching staff of Chot Reyes has shown the unity in both the MVP and SMC group in ensuring all hands on deck as the FIBA World Cup nears. Letting the staff have more time together, whether it be through the weekly practices or the international tournaments, is crucial if they want to get things in sync.
From the personnel perspective, Reyes has mentioned how they only play with the cards they’re dealt with. It does have its merits, but it has become a crutch with how often it has been mentioned. That aside, there have been positive developments with how they have increased the role of certain players while continuing to add to the current pool of players. The development of Kai Sotto has been welcome considering how the Philippines has had to naturalize big men just to keep up with the times.
Having Jordan Clarkson finally join Gilas was a good sign although he will have to join as a naturalized player. Having Sotto certainly makes that an easier transition as Gilas can focus on other aspects of the roster moving forward. Getting a Justin Brownlee, who can sub in for Clarkson just in case and play in the wing spots when needed is an example of such.
While expanding the pool of players certainly has its benefits, we’re at the point where it may be time to cultivate the core of the FIBA World Cup squad. A revolving door would certainly affect the stability of the team so getting them some runs together in team practices and international tournaments will get them to learn to play together through the good times and the bad.
As the host, the Philippines is hoping things go smoothly on that end. Logistics are being figured out, but the hope is that fans all over the world will come to support their national teams. Besides, it won’t hurt for the fans to explore Boracay, Palawan, and Siargao following the competition.
The new year is a time that ushers in a slew of resolutions and wishes and it’s no different when it comes to Philippine basketball. With the FIFA World Cup having just been recently concluded in thrilling fashion, it’s basketball’s turn to take center stage.
The ball is on the Philippines’ court both as a host and participant in the 2023 FIBA World Cup and Filipinos are hoping for success on both fronts.