For Alaska and Cariaso, it’s back to square one

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    LIKE being back to square one.

    That’s what Alaska coach Jeff Cariaso feels his drastically re-tooled Aces are in after their preparations for the coming PBA season got abruptly stalled by the government’s response to the latest coronavirus surge in the country.

    “Sayang, may momentum na kami kahit papaano. Ngayon, parang umatras tayo,” Cariaso told Malaya-Business Insight   “Bad trip, pero wala tayong magagawa. We have to follow the government decision.”

    Cariaso spoke after Metro Manila and nearby provinces were placed on enhanced community quarantine until at least Easter Sunday due to the recent upward spike in COVID cases in the country, a move that the Games and Amusements Board helped implement by limiting pro players to individual workouts in their homes or private properties.

    Thus, all 12 PBA teams were ordered to stop their small group workouts, a move which Cariaso believes impacts Alaska more than others.

    “I think may advantage ang teams na minimal lang ang new players nila, Through the years they have formed the chemistry, ganu’n,” explained Cariaso.

    “I look at it as a disadvantage for Alaska kasi, ‘yun nga, we’re young, tapos six new players, then ganito,” added Cariaso. “Kahit na ‘yung small group workouts natigil pa.”

    The Aces have four rookies in Ben Adamos, Taylor Browne, Alec Stockton and RK Ilagan, picked from the draft last March 14, as well as newly-acquired free agents Yousef Taha and Gab Banal.

    It’s the main reason Cariaso has been aching for small group workouts being elevated to 5-on-5 scrimmages, a decision that should come from the PBA but now enveloped in a cloud of uncertainty.

    The PBA had hoped to kick off the season-opening Philippine Cup on April 18, but Commissioner Willie Marcial has admitted that target date is now unhittable with an early May start the best possible scenario, leaving Cariaso ruing the valuable time that had been lost.

    “We started workouts Feb. 1. Although small group workouts lang, at least nakakapag-workout kami,” Cariaso said.

    “Very crucial na makapag-5-on-5 na, kasi small group, it’s only skills. Iba ‘yung nakakapag- up and down ka. Flow of the game, you know? Iba ‘yung hangin pag may dumidepensa, tapos oopensa. It’s really a big difference,” added Cariaso.

    “The more you get to play together, even if it’s practice basta 5-on-5, the better kasi nag-i-improve ka daily. We were hoping na after the draft puwede ng mag-5-on-5… but it (COVID cases) got worse.”

    Cariaso, however, understands where the government and the PBA are coming from.

    “Siyempre, for the good of the country and ang PBA naman safety first ng players,” he said.

    What to do during the lockdown and beyond is what Cariaso is focusing on.

    “I guess for the meantime, babalik kami sa Zoom workouts,” he said. “Then pag p’wede na (5-on-5), hataw kami. We just have to find ways to do extra. Honestly, naiisip ko, twice a day (practices).”