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Though he was finally given the OK to play for the Philippines in the Asian Games, Jordan Clarkson of the Cleveland Cavaliers could only sit and watch his team’s opener.
Clarkson did not make it to Jakarta, Indonesia in time to play in the Philippines’ tournament lid-lifter, though he wasn’t needed and watched from the bench as his teammates rolled to an easy 96-59 triumph over Kazakhstan.
He received a special exemption from the NBA to participate in the Games and is expected to be in uniform and play in the Philippines’ next game, against China, on Tuesday.
Clarkson, who was at first denied permission from the NBA to play, said it was frustrating while his status to participate was being considered.
He is one of three NBA players to be granted exemptions to take part in the 18th Asian Games, the others being Houston Rockets 7-foot-1 center Zhou Qi and Dallas Mavericks forward Ding Yanyuhang, both of whom play for China and will square off against Clarkson on Tuesday.
“We went back and forth so many times, saying I was going to play, then I wasn’t going to play,” Clarkson told Philippines’ reporters after Thursday’s game. “Now, being able to participate is awesome.
“I’m very excited to know that I’m finally getting to do this, being able to play … for the country. It’s definitely something that I’ve been looking forward to.”
The U.S.-born Clarkson qualifies to play for the Philippines through his maternal grandmother.
“I feel the support, the love all the time,” he said. “My grandma is real proud I’m able to do this now.”
The Philippines is back to being eligible to play in tournaments for the first time since July 2, when 10 players and two coaches were suspended following a wild melee in a World Cup qualifier against Australia, which had three players suspended after the brawl.
The fracas included numerous haymakers being thrown, chairs heaved at players and Australia’s Thon Maker of the Milwaukee Bucks actually charging at opponents, leaping and attempting to kick them.
Security personnel was finally necessary to restore order.