Basketball

Bills filed to naturalize NBA players JaVale McGee, Andray Blatche for Gilas Pilipinas pool

InterAKTV file/Markku Seguerra

InterAksyon.com file/Markku Seguerra

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.

Gilas Pilipinas coach Chot Reyes confirmed the development to News5 on Thursday, shortly before making a presentation before the PBA Board of Governors.

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.

“Would love to represent the Philippines if given the chance,” McGee wrote on Twitter in January 2012.

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.

Last August, Puno urged Congress to pass bills to naturalize two more players to be part of the Gilas training pool.

“I stand here today, to urge Congress to naturalize at the minimum two players identified by the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas for the national team that would serve as back up players to one another in case any one of them gets injured,” said Puno, who also authored the bill to naturalize Marcus Douthit.

“Thus, the Philippine national team avoids the inconvenience of jeopardizing the whole program in the event of an injury to any of our two naturalized players.”

McGee and Blatche were teammates with the Washington Wizards in the NBA. McGee is currently part of the Denver Nuggets, while Andray Blatche sees action for the Brooklyn Nets.

The 7-foot McGee was introduced to Filipino fans in the Ultimate All-Star Weekend in 2011, wowing the crowd with his extraordinary athleticism.

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