Norman Black: Important for players to remain in good condition

Meralco Bolts head coach Norman Black said the PBA must implement extra measures on social distancing should the league decide to return to play.

"Being at the game just sitting right next to somebody is only what a couple of inches from you, andguys a couple inches in front of you, to your left side, your right side and back of you. So it's hard to social distance in a basketball game," Black told ESPN5.com over a phone call.

While NLEX coach Yeng Guiao floated the idea of mass testing in the PBA, Black mentioned that team management will most certainly test all of their players before being allowed to come back.

Restricted access to their practice facility will be implemented, added Black, in order to prevent a possible spread of disease. He admitted that he did not realize the seriousness of COVID-19 until MalacaƱang imposed the enhanced community quarantine over the island of Luzon.

Black also praised the move of the PBA Board of Governors and Commissioner Willie Marcial to suspend play to help protect fans and the people who work in the league.

For the past month and a half or so, Black revealed that he talks to his players at least once a week to check on their physical and mental conditions. The Bolts' physical trainers have also instructed the players to keep themselves in shape so that they could quickly bounce back if and when the league decides to resume practice.

"The most important thing is that our players keep themselves in good condition. That's going to play a big part in how teams get off to a good start when they do return. The teams whose players were not able to stay in shape will probably have a little bit more difficult time," Black said.

"And you also have to take into consideration how long will they give us to get back in shape before they start the season again. If it's a month, or three to four weeks, then it's probably normally more than enough to get the guys back in shape."

Furthermore, the Bolts frontcourt will most likely welcome the return of two injured players, Raymond Almazan and Nonoy Baclao.

Almazan, according to Black, is about "95%" on his road to recovery following surgery to repair his lateral meniscus tear on his knee. Meanwhile, Nonoy Baclao, the team's newest acquisition, is projected to recover by July from his raptured patellar tendon.

Both players' returns will drastically improve the team's chances of competing in the All-Filipino, where they have struggled previously due to their ack of interior presence.

"Noy it gives us a lot more depth. As far as our frontline is concerned. He's already a proven player when it comes to the defensive end of the court. He's good enough to defend imports for periods of time, and he normally is assigned to guard the best big men in the league," furthered Black.

"So actually, what it does is it takes a little bit of pressure off Raymond because I can actually play the two guys together and Raymond doesn't always have to guard the best big man."