Gilas Pilipinas World Cup foes Iran hiding injury status of star centre Hamed Haddadi amid local media complaints
The former Phoenix Suns player is suffering from a groin injury and Iranian officials only say he is fit to play with ‘some considerations’
Iran basketball fans are in the dark over whether their best player, Hamed Haddadi, will take the court against Philippines in their crucial Fiba World Cup qualifier in Tehran on Thursday.
News outlets in the country are complaining about the lack of information coming out of the Iran camp as they go into their qualifier on a high after winning silver medal at the Asian Games in Jakarta – but an injury to former Phoenix Suns player Haddadi is casting a cloud over their preparations.
There are also injury doubts over another key player, Arsalan Kazemi, with an Iranian basketball official vague on whether or not the pair will be ready to face the Philippines, who have won four and lost two of their qualifying games so far.
“Of course, there are issues that should be dealt with through the technical staff [of the team] but according to my discussions with the doctors, we can have these two players, but with some considerations,” the official was quoted as saying by the Mers news agency.
The 33-year-old, 2.18m Haddadi, who played in Iran’s stunning victory over South Korea in the Asian Games semi-finals, is suffering from a groin injury while former Oregon Ducks and Washington Wizards player Kazemi, 28, has a leg injury.
Top Iran news agency ISNA, however, hit out at the country’s federation over the lack of news over Hadaddi and Kazemi’s chances of playing against the Philippines, who finished fifth in Jakarta but are without Cleveland Cavaliers’ Jordan Clarkson for the Tehran match.
“The public relations department of the basketball federation continues to get weaker,” it complained. “And despite the fact that the national team has started its preparations, it has not published any news of what is happening in the camp.”
Iran will start as heavy favourites for the match on the back of their Asian Games run, which ended in defeat by China in the final, and their 5-1 record in the qualifiers. Their only loss was a shock reversal against Iraq.
The Philippines have lost twice, both times to Australia including their controversial home defeat in July that was marred by a brawl and resulted in most of their squad being banned.
Gilas are third in group F that also comprises Kazakhstan, Japan and Qatar. Jordan lead the other Asian qualifying pool, group E, ahead of Lebanon, New Zealand, South Korea, China and Syria.
The top three teams in E and F, along with the best fourth-placed team, qualify for next year’s Fiba World Cup in China. Although the Chinese team are playing in the qualifiers, their points will not be counted because they already qualify as hosts.
Coach Yeng Guiao, who has now officially replaced Chot Reyes after the Australian fiasco, has named his 12 starters for the Iran game but has left out one of the stars of Jakarta, Stanley Pringle.
However, another standout and naturalised player, Christian Standhardinger, is in the line-up along with Jakarta teammates Ray Almazan, Beau Belga, Gabe Norwood, JP Erram and Asi Taulava.
Standhardinger said the Gilas players should not go into the game believing they are the underdogs.
“I think we all talk about we are supposed to be underdogs. But I don’t think that we are the underdogs,” Standhardinger was quoted as saying in the Philippines media, basing his confidence on their 82-80 loss to China in the Asian Games pool round.
“We lost to China by two points so we should win. If we don’t win, obviously we all take the blame.”
He also said that the Filipinos have a plan against Haddadi, should the giant Iranian play.
“He is a great player,” said Standhardinger. “He played in the NBA. Obviously, he has a lot of experience. But I think we are quick enough. We Filipinos, we are always quick and fast to counter that strength inside. I hope we can execute that.”