Blackwater, NorthPort focused on rhythm, timing ahead of Monday clash

The mad rush for conditioning has affected all 12 teams as players try to get into shape in time for the PBA restart at the Clark Freeport Bubble.

Blackwater forward Mac Belo said while everyone's getting the hang of the team practice since the Elite began over a week ago, he expects a lot of adjustments to be made once they play their first game against NorthPort on Monday (6:45 p.m. on One Sports and PBA Rush) at the Angeles University Foundation gym.

"Practice is good for the team even if we're in a rush because everyone needs to get his timing and conditioning back," Belo told ESPN5. "But we know that the real game is different."

The Elite will be facing a Batang Pier side that will have big man Christian Standhardinger leading the way, backstopped by Sean Anthony, Jervy Cruz, Kevin Ferrer, LA Revilla and Paolo Taha.

The 6-foot-4 Belo knows the first game will be crucial, as well as a good gauge as to what his team needs to improve on, given the absence of solid basketball competition the last seven months due to the threat of COVID-19.

"Our first game against NorthPort is very important because this gives us an idea of where we are as a team," shared the 27-year-old Belo.

Given the mixture of youth in the team's composition, the former Gilas Pilipinas mainstay feels the Elite can take advantage of it with their run-and-gun approach in the PBA bubble.

Ed Daquioag and Mike Tolomia are good in transition game, while the oldest rookie Maurice Shaw hopes to add size and ceiling under Blackwater coach Nash Racela.

Belo said the long basketball break has helped him recover well from his knee injury, which had been nagging him for quite some time.

"I'm ready to play. The eight months of no basketball has helped me rest my knees, though I must admit that initially, I had a hard time getting my conditioning back and my timing," said Belo, the three-time PBA All-Star who was selected by Blackwater in the 2016 PBA special draft.

As for NorthPort coach Pido Jarencio, what's important in the PBA restart is for the players to simply try to get their rhythm back since coming off a long layoff.

"We'll just focus on trying to get the rhythm," said Jarencio. "The preparation time is so short, some nine or 10 days only so we need to make the most out of it."

Robert Bolick, who had a sensational run in his rookie year last season, has been left out of the PBA bubble to give him more time to recover from an ACL injury.