There are pretty good, sensible reasons why Tim Cone chose this team.
Gilas Pilipinas coach Tim Cone knows all too well the quality of basketball the LG Sakers brings to the table.
After all, the Sakers did beat Cone’s Barangay Ginebra San Miguel, 100-90, back in 2019 in an exhibition—and with Justin Brownlee already in uniform for the crowd favorites. Ginebra did get back at their tormentor a week later but needed a dagger three from Stanley Pringle to hold off the Korean squad, 95-91.
So, yes, the winningest coach in PBA history knows how good the Sakers are, which is why he did not pass up the chance to face off with them again, this time with Gilas.
“They just happen to be here in the Philippines, playing different PBA teams at this point, and so they were actually supposed to play Ginebra in a practice game,” Cone said in an interview on One News PH's The Big Story on Friday. “So, being the head coach of Ginebra, I was able to say, ‘Guys, sorry you can't play them, it's going to be us Gilas.’”
So, why them?
“They're a very, very strong team, and they'll bring a couple of imports, so they'll be a really good test,” Cone explained on why he chose to play the Korean squad. “It is strategic in the fact that we wanted to play someone from Korea because there's a certain rhythm and style that Korea plays in. And if you're not used to it, it could really be hard to figure out, so we wanted to have that opportunity to play a Korean team, so it's a good one.”
Incidentally, there is a decent chance Gilas and South Korea will be on a collision course right after the group stage as the latter has been drawn in Group D, along with Japan, Indonesia, and Qatar, while the former is in Group C, with Bahrain, Jordan, and Thailand. They might even face off in the quarterfinals in a win-or-go home encounter.
So, yes, this Korean team is a really good test for Gilas. It is also great preparation for the national team as to what might come its way in the Asian Games.