A bill has been filed in the House of Representatives to naturalize Denver Nuggets center JaVale McGee to make him eligible for the SMART-Gilas Pilipinas national team.
Antipolo City representative Robbie Puno filed House Bill 6169, which would make McGee a Filipino citizen. Puno, in his bill’s cover letter, cited McGee’s “remarkable track record in the United States’ professional basketball scene” as consideration for his inclusion in the SMART-Gilas program.
McGee, who came over to the Philippines twice last year during the NBA lockout, has expressed interest in playing for the country.
“Just heard from [SMART-Gilas] Coach Chot [Reyes] that the Philippine national team is about to be formed. Would love to represent the Philippines if given the chance,” wrote McGee on his Twitter account last January.
The 7-foot McGee was introduced to Filipino fans in last year’s Ultimate All-Star Weekend, wowing the crowd with his extraordinary athleticism.
The former NBA slam dunk runner-up was acquired by the Nuggets from the Washington Wizards earlier this year. He averaged 10.3 points and 5.8 rebounds in limited minutes for Denver, and helped the Nuggets take their first-round series against the Los Angeles Lakers to seven games.
He is scheduled to become a restricted free agent this offseason, and his contract status could have an effect on his desire to suit up for the Philippine squad.
McGee was also previously part of the pool for the United States men’s basketball team, but has never been chosen to play for Team USA, making him eligible to play for another country.
Puno also filed the bill for the naturalization of Marcus Douthit, who led SMART-Gilas to a fourth-place finish in the 2011 FIBA Asia Championship, the country’s best finish in the biennial competition since 1987.
If plans to have McGee suit up for SMART-Gilas materialize, he will replace Douthit in the lineup, since FIBA allows only one naturalized player for each team. If it happens, SMART-Gilas will have an NBA-caliber center to match up with the top teams in Asia. The last two nations to win the FIBA Asia Championship, China and Iran, feature NBA players Yi Jianlian and Hamed Haddadi in their respective lineups.