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Andray Blatche, Andre Roberson join Dwight Howard with Strong Group

Andre Roberson, Andray Blatche, and McKenzie Moore are joining Dwight Howard at Strong Group. Strong Group
By Ivan Saldajeno

MANILA--Former Gilas Pilipinas naturalized player Andray Blatche and NBA veteran Andre Roberson will backstop Dwight Howard in Strong Group for the Dubai International Basketball Championship.

The Frank Lao-owned team announced on Wednesday that Blatche, who was with the Mighty Sports team that won the 2020 edition, and Roberson, a known defensive specialist, will join Howard in the said tournament that will run from Jan. 19-28 at the Al-Nasr Sports Club in Dubai.

"I'm excited to run with Dre Blatche again. We won the last time he played for me, and he's eager to represent the Philippines once more," Strong Group head coach Charles Tiu said of Blatche, who was with Gilas during its campaign in the 2014 FIBA World Cup.

On the other hand, Tiu looks forward to seeing Roberson, who is more known for his hustle and tight defense, unleash his offensive prowess with Strong Group.

"Andre Roberson is known to be a workhorse and lock-down defender. I believe he can contribute offensively at this level, and his great team-oriented attitude will make him an excellent fit," Tiu further said.

Roberson, who became the Oklahoma City Thunder's starting small forward after Kevin Durant joined the Golden State Warriors, averaged 4.5 points, 4.0 rebounds, 0.9 assists, 0.9 steals, and 0.6 blocks per game during his entire career.

Former TNT import McKenzie Moore has been announced as well to be part of Strong Group.

Moore joined the Tropang Giga for the 2022 PBA Governors' Cup, but his stint only lasted for a month due to an MCL injury and was replaced by Christmas 2021 by Aaron Fuller.

Moore is making his first tournament back after a little more than two years.

To help Tiu in coaching Strong Group, the team tapped Australian national team head coach Brian Goorjian to be its team consultant.

"I am truly excited to announce the addition of Brian Goorjian as our esteemed team consultant for the Dubai International Basketball Championship. With his unparalleled coaching acumen and a wealth of experience, Brian brings an invaluable perspective to all of us,” Lao said.

Goorjian coached the Bay Area Dragons during the 2023 PBA Commissioner's Cup and led them to the finals against Ginebra with the deciding game watched by 54,589 fans at the Philippine Arena in Bocaue.

Andray Blatche's role in acquiring Dwight Howard

Tiu revealed that Blatche was the reason why they were able to sign Howard for the Dubai International Basketball Championship.

"Andray Blatche played a crucial role in connecting us," Tiu revealed.

When Tiu pitched the idea to Lao and his son Jacob, the team owners did not hesitate to green-light the acquisition.

"I'm grateful for the support from our owners Frank and Jacob Lao," Tiu further said.

The concurrent College of St. Benilde coach expects Howard, a former three-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year and champion, to be Strong Group's centerpiece as the 38-year-old veteran eyes one last shot at finishing his career with the American league.

"We pursued Dwight because we believe he can provide a significant defensive presence and contribute offensively," Tiu further said.

Joining Strong Group in the Dubai International Basketball Championship are the United Arab Emirates, Sagesse, Al Riyadi, Al Ahly Benghazi, Homenetmen Beirut, and Al Ahli.

Follow him on X: @IvanSaldajeno

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