Cone apologizes to Baltazar, Pineda for ‘hasty’ remarks on Gilas availability

Gilas Pilipinas interim coach Tim Cone apologized on Saturday for his “hasty” remarks on Justine Baltazar’s apparent lack of interest in playing for the national squad at the World Cup.

“I did not mean to infer that he didn’t want to play for Gilas, but rather I was told that we (someone from the SBP – not sure who) called him or his representatives and he was not available,” the multi-tiled mentor wrote on X.

“We really wanted him at the time because Kai (Sotto) was a question mark and we were lacking bigs,” added Cone. “Whether he had reasons for not joining us, or if there was a miscommunication, or whether he was actually not called at all, I don’t know because I was not part of the process.”

Cone stated that he “spoke out of order” when discussing Baltazar’s willingness to suit up for Gilas Pilipinas shortly after his appointment was announced at the Philippine Basketball Association’s office last Thursday.

After being prodded by members of the press, he revealed the availability of Baltazar, a fan favorite and staple in many of Tab Baldwin’s Gilas squads.

“Balti, we’ve been trying to get him forever but he’s not available. We tried to get him for the World Cup team. We tried really, really hard to get him for the World Cup. He was one of the guys that we really desired but he is just not available. He has shown us zero interest.”

Cone subsequently stated in a tweet that he didn’t want to begin his Gilas journey with a misstep, thus he was doing “his best to clarify it.”

“I don’t want to start off this journey with a controversy, so I’m going to do my best to clarify it. I apologize to Justine Baltazar for my hasty remarks regarding his exclusion from the World Cup pool.”

Baltazar, a former La Salle standout, has been playing for the Pampanga Giant Lanterns in the Maharlika Pilipinas Basketball League. He last played for Gilas during the 2021 Asia Cup qualifiers, where he averaged 7.1 points, 7.8 rebounds, and 1.8 assists.

“I loved watching Justine play in La Salle but have not met the young man, nor have I met or spoken to [Gov. Delta] Pineda. But to both, I apologize,” said Cone.

“It was not my intention to ruin Justine’s name through this controversy. In fact, I wanted to mention at the time of the press conference how much we had thought of him joining the pool. The kid can play!”

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