Boomers camp weigh in on on-court brawl with Philippines

Fresh insight into the now-infamous brawl between Australia and the Philippines has been aired by several key members of the Boomers camp, as they touched back down on Aussie soil.

Speaking about the fracas that saw 13 players in total ejected and the game ending in an absolute farcical manner, Boomers assistant coach Luc Longley held nothing back, saying it’s the worst thing he’s ever seen in the sport.

“I’ve never seen anything like that, not even on YouTube,” the three-time NBA champion told reporters at Brisbane Airport.

“Those are the sort of images that you hope you never see, one guy lying on the ground, covering up his head and being kicked and beaten by the other team’s players and officials and guys from the crowd. It was horrifying.”

The player Longley is referring to is Olympian and Commonwealth Games gold medalist Chris Goulding, who was set upon by multiple attackers as the brawl morphed from a sporting tussle to what could be described as criminal assault.

“I went to help a couple of other guys and then saw a big throng of blue, I couldn’t even see any yellow at the bottom of it. Eventually, I did see that (yellow uniform) and that’s when I realised that Bubbles [Goulding] had been left by himself,” Longley continued.

“He took a lot of hard hits and didn’t swing once in retaliation, which was an enormous act of discipline.”

Goulding’s agent, Daniel Moldovan, has vowed legal action if FIBA doesn’t step up to the plate when it comes to appropriate punishment.

“That was just Chris – alone, underneath 12 guys stomping on him, punching him, kicking him,” Moldovan told SEN Radio.

“What took place from those that flew off the bench out of sight and out of mind for those involved in the fracas... going in the fashion that they did, that’s where I took serious offense to what took place and that’s where I want to see FIBA come down with a very, very heavy hand... If FIBA’s response isn’t adequate, I’m going to pursue my own legal avenues to protect my clients.”

In addition to Longley and Moldovan, Boomer forward Daniel Kickert discussed his role in the altercation – one that can be deemed as critical in the escalation of the situation.

"Obviously I think I've overstepped a little bit with my response to the escalation in the game, and I regret those things,” the newly minted Sydney King said.

“I'm going to let FIBA do everything they need to do to take the time, go through the process and come to the answers that they see fit, and bring down the sanctions that they bring down.”

By now, most people have seen or heard about the fight. It’s been relayed countless times on television and written about extensively in newspapers across the country. We saw the offensive foul committed on Chris Goulding. We saw Daniel Kickert’s decision to retaliate with an elbow of his own. We saw the Filipino bench clear in response to Kickert.

Longley believes a large chunk of the blame should be placed upon Philippines head coach Chot Reyes, who was captured on video during the game imploring his players to “hit somebody” and “put somebody on their arse.”

“I do believe that their coach Chot Reyes incited them to come out and thug us... he substituted a thug out there who took three or four cheap swings at Bubbles [Goulding],” Longley added.

“I think he was embarrassed by the way his team was playing. I think he was embarrassed by the kind of shape they were in. I think he was embarrassed with how they fought. He wouldn’t look me in the eye at the end of the game when I shook his hand.”

Coach Reyes defended the message he delivered to his players during the timeout, saying he was trying to get his players to not give up easy layups.

“Anyone who understands basketball, if you take offense with that statement, you don't know basketball. That's number one,” Reyes said post game.

"But number two, take a look at the statement, they're beating us on transition so foul early, don't give a layup, foul early, hit somebody, put him down so that the referees will call a foul," he continued.

The decals incident

Tension between the two camps started well before the offensive foul that floored Chris Goulding in the third quarter. Days prior, Australian officials removed advertising stickers from the Filipino court, citing safety concerns. The governing body of the Filipino basketball team, SBP, took exception to this.

Basketball Australia CEO Anthony Moore admitted that it “wasn’t the smartest move” and has since apologised to his governing body counterparts.

“We trained, had numerous players fall, and fall heavily, and our team management undertook a course of action that we actually apologised for. We ripped the decals up,” Moore admitted.

“There’s no doubt that heightened the issue, but that was more from an administrator, federation-to-federation part as opposed to players,” he continued.

The warmups

A second noteworthy episode occurred prior to tip-off, with the two groups coming face-to-face as they went through their warm ups. Fox Sports Australia obtained footage of an unidentified Filipino player allegedly sticking his leg out in front of Australia’s Kickert. The power forward, believing he had identified the culprit, responded by shoving the wrong player before a multitude of people from both sides converged in a scuffle.

In the fallout of the incident, many fans and officials have been quick to point the finger. This is a slippery slope though, one that allows for an ugly, school yard mindset that actions can be justified by saying “they started it.” The fact is, individuals from both camps played a role in creating the initial situation -- as well as the referees.

The referees in charge of the game did very little to quell the clearly growing aminosity in the lead up to the explosion of violence. As Longley noted, Goulding was subject to numerous "cheap swings" prior to the final one -- swings that should have warranted referee intervention. The fact the game was allowed to continue after the brawl would have been comical, had the situation not been so severe. Although, to be fair to the referees, they may have been hamstrung by higher ranking FIBA officials and rules.

That’s where the equal blame should end, though.

The Boomers on the floor --vastly outnumbered-- were acting largely in self-defence after Kickert's point of escalation. Yes, Thon Maker threw some knees or kicks, and others exchanged further shoves and elbows. They will have to face the music regarding those actions. But much of everything else was done for self-preservation.

Thankfully, miraculously, all Boomers on the floor at the time escaped with no reported serious physical injuries.

To add to the ridiculousness, The Philippines national team was filmed taking group selfies as the referees figured out the best course of action.

An underrated aspect to all this chaos was the leadership and restraint shown by NBA star Matthew Dellavedova. Video below shows Dellavedova holding the Australian bench back when the brawl erupted. This type of discipline in the face of such an emotionally charged scene is breathtaking and should be commended.

To run over and help your mates was the easy decision. The right decision though was to stand put, and not add any more fuel to the fire.

Several players from both sides took to social media to express their regret in the incident, with Aussie Thon Maker and American-Filipino Andray Blatche posting messages online.

FIBA has since issued a statement advising that both Australia and the Philippines will face “disciplinary proceedings” in the wake of the matter, with a determination set to be announced in a few days.

What those punishments are remains to be seen for the players, coaches and team officials. This is unprecedented territory. Financial reparation, multi-year bans, life-time exclusion – these are all very much in play.

The vision that came out of the game was distressing in its brutality. The actions undertaken by the aggressors was deplorable and inexcusable – worthy of even criminal charges. The perpetrators should feel a great deal of regret. One would hope the source of their guilt stems not from the punishments they are set to face, but from the fact they assaulted another human being.

To round it out, I’ll share a personal titbit.

A few months ago, I had the privilege of playing alongside a passionate Filipino player in a lunchtime pickup game. Donning a worn-out Allen Iverson 76ers jersey, he told me how, when in the Philippines, he would head to his local court at 8am, strap on his kicks, and play until the sun disappeared. I relayed to him a similar story. I told him about travelling across the state to play as a junior, in addition to the countless hours spent playing in the driveway and at high school with friends.

Playing four-on-four, we managed to reel off a couple of wins, but were offset with a few losses, too. He played point guard. I played the two. With every basket we’d exchange a high five or a glance of recognition. He became our quartet's de facto leader, giving instruction on pick-and-roll plays and when to switch defensively. When it came time to call it quits, we shook hands and went our separate ways.

A shared passion for basketball had brought us together, if only briefly, like it should. May the love of this sport continue to shine bright across nations, and not result in actions that tarnish the game, like it did on Monday night.