PBA (Philippine Basketball Association) selection players Gabe Norwood and Sol Mercado, and Smart Gilas Head Coach Rajko Toroman are feeling the pressure as their teams are set to face the NBA (National Basketball Association) league players July 23 and 24 at the Araneta Coliseum for the Smart Ultimate All-Star Weekend.
The NBA all-star team is comprised of basketball superstars Kobe Bryant and Derek Fisher of the Los Angeles Lakers, 2011 Most Valuable Player awardee Derrick Rose from the Chicago Bulls, Oklahoma City Thunder's Kevin Durant and James Harden, Chris Paul of New Orleans Hornets, Tyreke Evans of the Sacramento Kings, JaVale McGee of the Washington Wizards and Derrick Williams of Minnesota Timberwolves.
Coach Toroman said the friendly game will help prepare the national team for the 2012 London Olympic qualifiers in September.
In a previous interview with PEP.ph (Philippine Entertainment Portal), Smart Gilas Team Captain Chris Tiu said he is looking forward to playing with people from different countries to get first-hand experience of various basketball techniques.
As for Norwood and Mercado, they said they are just happy to play in the same court with their basketball idols.
Mercado said he has been dreaming of this match for days and has taken to his favorite Playstation game NBA 2K11 trying out various strategies.
Norwood, on the other hand, hopes to win the game against his idols, because "you don't play this game just to lose," he said.
The two athletes said they also hope to learn a lot from their professional opponents.
At the press conference held earlier at the Isla Ballroom of the EDSA Shangri-La hotel, Fisher, Durant, Williams and Paul said since they arrived in the country yesterday, they have been overwhelmed with the support and hospitality shown by Filipino fans.
They are very excited to play and are happy to be part of the Manny V. Pangilinan Sports Foundation's efforts to raise funds for the advancement of basketball and other sports in the Philippines.
Most of them are also excited to meet world boxing champion Manny Pacquiao.
Bryant, Rose, McGee, Harden and Evans did not attend the lunchtime press conference opting to rest for the upcoming games.
Earlier today, the players facilitated a basketball clinic for about 75 children, and later attended an exclusive meet and greet event at the Meralco head office in Ortigas to raise funds for the foundation.
Bryant a.k.a. the Black Mamba, will be the NBA team's playing coach.
A 3-point shootout event and dunk showcase will also be part of Sunday's activities.
The games will be aired on AKTV Sports on IBC Channel 13. Tonight's game will be aired live at 7:00 p.m. There is a delayed telecast on Sunday at 5:00 p.m. for the second game.