In a shocking, last-minute twist, National Basketball Association player Jordan Clarkson will finally see action in the 18th Asian Games in Jakarta after getting cleared by the NBA and the Indonesia Asian Games Organizing Committee (Inasgoc).
Chief of mission Richard Gomez broke the news to Daily Tribune, saying Clarkson was finally given the green light to compete by the NBA following persistent appeals by both the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) the Philippine Olympic Committee (POC).
The NBA, however, has yet to issue an official statement.
“NBA already gave the nod allowing JC (Clarkson) to play at the AG (Asian Games), said Gomez, who is expected to tap Clarkson as flag-bearer when the Philippine delegation marches in the opening ceremonies on 18 Aug.
“JC will take the earliest flight available to Jakarta to make it to our game against Kazakhstan.”
Moments later, the Olympic Council of Asia (OCA) and the Inasgoc gave deputy chief of mission Robert Bachmann their approval, making Clarkson available to see action when the national men’s basketball team faces Kazakhstan on Thursday.
“Clarkson already approved by OCA! We did it!” said Bachmann in a short statement to Daily Tribune.
Special Assistant to the President (SAP) Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go welcomed the development and asked the basketball fans to stay united in their support of the national team.
“Let us thank the NBA for allowing Clarkson to play for the Filipinos. We hope Clarkson’s big contributions to the team will send the Philippines up in the basketball standings and hopefully the podium,” Go said.
The NBA’s decision to allow Clarkson to see action came as a surprise even to the officials who tried their last push to make it happen.
POC president Ricky Vargas, in fact, blasted the world’s most popular basketball league for its “double standard” after it initially barred Clarkson from playing while allowing two Chinese Zhou Qi and Ding Yanyuhang to see action despite having live NBA contracts.
The 7-foot-2 Zhou is campaigning for the Houston Rockets while the 6-foot-7 Ding is affiliated with the Dallas Mavericks. Both of them are part of the Chinese men’s basketball team that won the gold medal in the FIBA Asia Men’s Championship in Changsha, the tourney where they dominated the Philippines in the gold medal match, 78-67.
Interestingly, the Filipinos and the Chinese will have an early collision after landing in Group D in the men’s basketball competition that kicked off Tuesday.
Vargas said the NBA should also take a look at Zhou and Ding for the way it initially treated Clarkson, who was barred from playing due to his live contract with the Cleveland Cavaliers.
“We seek fairness from the NBA. They cited a rule disallowing Jordan Clarkson from playing for the Philippines. Are we to understand that the same rule does not apply to the Chinese NBA players?” Vargas said.
“We are faced with a confusing situation. China has submitted a lineup that includes Zhou Qi and Ding Yanyuhang, who are current NBA players.”
The NBA said they are barring Clarkson to play because the Asian Games is not part of its agreement with the International Basketball Federation (FIBA). It is not clear yet if the league will revoke this statement.
Vargas said they have no idea about that particular ruling.
“NBA, please enlighten us. Isn’t China subject to the same rule that the NBA caused on Clarkson no allowing him to play for the Philippine team?”
“Or did China simply disobey? And if so, what now?”
POC chairman Abraham Tolentino also claimed that he was shocked and hoped that the NBA will be more consistent with its regulations regarding foreign players.
“We hope that the NBA will be more consistent with its rulings and give us a fair shake. This should not be too much to ask.”
Clarkson is tipped to replace Don Trollano in the final 12-man roster.