Kai Sotto and the Adelaide 36ers have been out of action for nearly a month now, as the COVID-19 pandemic has forced the postponement of their games in the National Basketball League (NBL).
Sotto made his debut for Adelaide on December 18 against the Cairns Taipans, playing 10 minutes in a 93-67 defeat. They have yet to bounce back from that defeat, however, as their next games were called off with players from all over the NBL testing positive for the coronavirus.
Adelaide was originally supposed to play on Saturday against the Tasmania JackJumpers, but that game has been postponed as well after "a number of JackJumpers were ruled out due to COVID protocols." They return instead on January 18 against the Perth Wildcats at the Adelaide Entertainment Centre.
According to Adelaide head coach CJ Bruton, the time off has been a "double-edged sword" for the 36ers, who have been dealing with a bevy of injuries to key players even before the pandemic affected their schedule.
"It does help with us getting a little bit closer to having Sunday (Dech) on the floor and having everyone on deck," Bruton said in an interview posted on the team website. "Sunday is back practicing with us so it helps us get him back and hopefully get our time together because we are yet to play a game with our full roster together."
"That's where it helps us, but it hinders us not playing any competition games for a number of weeks now," he added.
In a way, the 36ers are in preseason all over again, said Bruton, which has its pros and cons.
Aside from fully integrating their injured players -- including Sotto who missed several games due to a lingering knee issue -- Bruton also welcomes the opportunity to implement his system, having only joined the team shortly before the start of the preseason.
"Now, we've had seven days back together to get our legs underneath us, and to get back on the same page and to understand what's required for us to be successful in our offensive and defensive schemes," he noted.
"It's been a blessing in disguise," he added.
But Bruton also pointed out that until they play a competitive game, they cannot make an accurate assessment of their progress.
"It's like pre-season all over again and you are going out there blind," he said. "While you are practicing against each other and think you are doing all the right things, you don't actually know until you are playing against someone."
Nonetheless, they are maximizing their time off, and Bruton expects his players to be ready to play against Perth come Tuesday.
Asked about Sotto in particular, the coach said that the Filipino teenager should be able to make an impact on both ends of the court.
"He (Sotto) has definitely come back and as he has all off-season and since I've been here, he has shown his ability to impact the game not only on the defensive end but also the offensive end," said Bruton.
"By being so big, he has the ability by being so big he can dominate around the rim in that role. I see it no differently coming into our next game as well," he added.