• Top NBA players arrive to test Gilas Pilipinas’ mettle

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    An A-list of National Basketball Association (NBA) stars are in Manila to play a couple of games against the Gilas Pilipinas national team, which is toughening up for the FIBA World Cup in Spain in August.

    The NBA finals Most Valuable Player Kawhi Leonard of the San Antonio Spurs, Paul George of the Indiana Pacers, Blake Griffin of the Los Angeles Clippers and James Harden of the Houston Rockets bannered the group that arrived on Monday for the PLDT’s All Star Charity Game “The Last Home Stand,” a two-game series against Gilas on July 22 to 23 at the Araneta Coliseum in Quezon City.

    With them were Tyson Chandler of the Dallas Mavericks; Damian Liliard of the Portland Traiblazers; Terrence Ross, Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan of the Toronto Raptors; point guard Brandon Jennings of the Mil–waukee Bucks; college standout Nick Johnson; Ed Davis, unrestricted free agent; and popular skills coach John Lucas.

    At a news conference, Harden and Liliard offered words of encouragement to the Philippine team and told them to play their very best against the world’s elite players.

    “They have to play their best when they represent the country in FIBA World and they must make a good impact there,” the 6’5 left-handed guard Harden said. “They must believe.”

    “I’ve been here a couple of times. The fans here are crazy [about basketball]and about sports in general,” he added.

    The 6’2 Liliard echoed Harden’s advice, saying, “Playing against elite players is very tough and you have to believe in yourself that you’re one of those elite players.”

    Leonard, who will skip Team USA in World Cup to rest his body, wished the Philippines luck in Spain.

    Lowry expects the trip to be fun, saying, “We’re gonna enjoy our time here.”

    He added, “We have a good chance of seeing other countries’ different cultures and experience them.”

    “It is really great to be part of this event. We came here and [we will try to]put up a good show and give back to charity,” Lowry said.

    DeRozan said it is his second time to visit the Philippines. “It is definitely fun to be back. I just came here a few weeks ago,” DeRozan added. “Fan support here is really encouraging.”

    Gilas head coach Chot Reyes, who steered the team to third place at last week’s FIBA Asia Cup in Wuhan, China, said playing against top NBA players will help in preparing for the World Cup and even the Asian Games in South Korea this year.

    “It’s going to be a big help playing against them. It’s really a huge opportunity for us,” Reyes added.

    Money raised from the charity series will go to the Philippine Disaster Recovery Fund, Caritas Manila and MVP Sports Foundation.

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