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American basketball fans typically think of national team selection as a difficult process in which many deserving players aim for a few coveted spots, but the vast majority questions need all the help they can get. The best players in the world have been limited to a few nations, which leaves the others looking for any ways possible to improve their teams for international competition. While most of these countries focus on youth development and training programs, they can also naturalize players without the option to play for their true home. It's a little weird, and arguably unethical, but it's allowed.
This avenue is particularly exciting to a country like the Philippines. Despite boasting perhaps the highest per-capita basketball fandom in the world (unofficially), the Philippines struggles on the international stage due to a relative lack of height and strength. Adding taller players with NBA credentials could mean a lot to their international hopes, particularly as they prepare for their first appearance in the FIBA World Cup in Spain this upcoming summer.
In 2012, the Philippines attempted to naturalize JaVale McGee. That fell through, but they're trying it again — this time with one of JaVale's former Washington Wizards teammates, as well. From Joshua Lopez for InterAksyon.com:
Bills have been filed to naturalize NBA players JaVale McGee and Andray Blatche to become eligible for inclusion into the Philippine national men’s basketball pool. [...]
House Bill 3784 will take care of giving citizenship for McGee, while House Bill 3783 will do the same for Blatche. Both bills were filed by Antipolo City representative Robbie Puno.
This isn’t the first time a bill has been filed for McGee’s naturalization. In May 2012, Puno filed a similar bill in the previous Congress. [...]
A Gilas insider told InterAksyon.com in the past that the plan to tap McGee fell through because of the prohibitive amount for the player’s insurance policy — upwards of $1 million — apart from compensation for his services to play for the national squad.
But Gilas has since qualified for the FIBA Basketball World Cup, underscoring the need to upgrade the talent on the team. The team currently employs Marcus Douthit as its naturalized player. Only one naturalized player is allowed to play for a team during FIBA tournaments.
It may seem unnecessary to have three naturalized players when only one can play in each tournament, but the InterAksyon.com article goes on to explain the precarious position of the Philippines' team. With the squad relying so much on one player, any injury would doom their chances. Douthit — a 6-11 second-round pick of the Los Angeles Lakers in 2004 — Blatche, and McGee are all centers, so they would serve as each other's replacements depending on availability.
Of course, none of these three men have Filipino blood or background. Andrew Keh of The New York Times tweeted Blatche's response to this point:
As noted by Rod Boone of Newsday, Blatche's Brooklyn Nets teammate Joe Johnson didn't buy it. We will point you to that quote instead of reproducing it here, because it's a little unsafe for work.
NBA fans may wonder why any country would want to reteam two of the most immature members of the legendarily unprofessional late-'00s/early-'10s Wizards teams, but naturalized player rules would suggest that Blatche and McGee won't ever see the court together for the national team outside of a few practices. Truthfully, the focus of this story should be on a nation of fervent basketball fans getting a better chance at competing on the international stage. It may be happening via a tactic unrelated to the vagaries of birth location, but it counts all the same.
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