This offseason could shape up to be a summer to remember for Javale McGee.
Not only have the Denver Nuggets already indicated they are interested in bringing back the restricted free-agent center, but McGee very easily could return to Denver as a member of the Philippine national basketball team.
The 7-footer already gave his go-signal to be a naturalized Filipino citizen and now comes word out of the Philippines that a bill has been filed in Congress to grant McGee Filipino citizenship that would allow him to play for Smart Gilas Pilipinas, the developmental Philippine national basketball team.
The bill was filed by Rep. Robbie Puno, the same man who helped usher in the naturalization of Marcus Douthit, the 6-foot-10 center out of Providence College who was selected 27th overall in 2004 by the Los Angeles Lakers.
Last September, Douthit finished with 27 points and 22 rebounds as the Philippines lost to Korea in the Bronze Medal Game at the FIBA Asia Championship. But now the attention shift to officially adding McGee to change the fortunes of the national team.
But how will this one play out?
Under FIBA rules, a country may enlist only one naturalized player and since Douthit is 31-years old, recruiting McGee is considered a move for Philippines’ future.
“With the approval of this bill, our country could have two naturalized players who would contribute effective development to the team,” Punto said of the 24-year old McGee.
“The two of them would practice against each other, and also would serve as backup player to each other in case any one of them gets injured…the addition of another naturalized player would ensure continuity in the program that was started with Marcus Douthit,” Puno added.
Coming off a missed opportunity at the World Olympic Qualifier, the hope is McGee would bring legitimacy to a national team that is growing its game on the international level. The plan: naturalize McGee in time for the 2013 FIBA Asia Championship which serves as the qualifying tournament for the 2014 FIBA World Cup.
“Given his remarkable track record in the US pro league, McGee will no doubt be a great asset to our country if given a chance to play for the Philippine team. McGee is widely regarded as the only NBA player eligible for naturalization since majority of NBA centers have played for other national teams,” Puno also said.
Joining the Philippines national team isn’t exactly a done deal for McGee.
The process to naturalize Douthit took roughly two years once the bill worked its way through legislation and all the paperwork was processed.
But at this point the feeling to have McGee represent the Philippines on the national level is at least a mutual interest from McGree and the powers that be for Smart Gilas Pilipinas. McGee visited Manila twice during the NBA lockout and played in two exhibition games last July and was believed to be nearing a deal to play in the Philippines had the NBA lockout not been resolved.
For the Philippines, they feel they’ve already missed out once on keeping their “adopted son” McGee around. And if they don’t take advantage of naturalizing him, another country most certainly will.
McGee is a wanted man.
That goes for the Denver Nuggets and now the Philippine national team too.