Andray Blatche participated in his first practice with Gilas Pilipinas and looked formidable as ever as he and the rest of the national team head into their final preparations for the second window of the 2019 FIBA World Cup Asian Qualifiers.
"It feels good, feels great," Blatche said after Monday's practice at the Greenhils West Clubhouse in Ortigas. "Back for my brothers and [getting] ready to compete against Australia and Japan."
Gilas will take on Australia on February 22 and three days later will take on Japan for the second time around.
"I see they added the one Japan guy that used to play for the (Phoenix) Suns," said Blatche, who was talking about Yuta Tabuse - a 5-foot-9 point guard who had a brief stint with the Suns back in 2004.
Despite the addition of Tabuse and the eagerness of the rest of Japan squad to exact vengeance on the Philippines, Blatche isn't worried at all.
"We have to come out and just play our game. It should be fun," the former Brooklyn Nets center shared. "I heard their players are guaranteeing a win. That's just trash-talk. As long as we come out and play the way we're capable of playing, we're gonna be fine."
"I mean, they should expect us to be tougher," he added.
Blatche was released from his Chinese Basketball Association (CBA) team earlier than expected and arrived in Manila on Friday night.
"I just kept asking my team president, team GM. [I] told them it was better for me to go the Philippines earlier and started working out other than just have me waiting around here, waiting in China," he explained. "After convincing him a couple of weeks they finally let me go."
The naturalized Filipino maximized his early clearance by arriving in the country early. By Saturday night, two days before Gilas resumed practice, he was already in the Meralco Gym working on his shot on his own. Furthermore, he will be in attendance for the rest of the daily practices of Gilas throughout the week before they fly out on February 19.
Blatche is back and looks sharper and more eager to get two more wins for the Philippine team.
"I'm healthy, better condition. I can help the team a lot more now," he beamed.