By Michael Angelo S. Murillo, Senior Reporter

UNABLE to train on-court as a group for the few months because of the coronavirus pandemic, the Alaska Aces are girding to begin some training this week as the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) makes its long-delayed return to activities.

With the National Capital Region reverting to a more relaxed quarantine setup last week, the window opened for the PBA to finally set into motion its planned team workouts, the first phase in its push to resume its currently suspended season.

By Aug. 25, all the 12 member PBA teams are expected to begin their respective workouts which will be guided by strict health and safety protocols to guard against the spread of the coronavirus.

Under the protocols set by the PBA, and approved by the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF), in the workouts, players must observe proper distancing (only four players at a time) and hygiene with the designated team safety officer expected to be on top of things.

Other items in the protocols are players undergoing a series of swab testings and them abiding by the “closed circuit” method that has players confining their travel as much as possible to home-to-practice facility and back.

For the Aces, after months of being limited to online training, the return to on-court team workouts is a welcome development and something they are looking at as paving the way for the resumption of the currently suspended season where they hope to make noise and compete.

“What’s nice is finally we’re going to get back to the court. Even if it’s just a small group workout, I think at this point every team will take it just to be present on the court. That’s what is important,” said Alaska coach Jeffrey Cariaso on The Chasedown show on Saturday.

“We practice at the Gatorade Hoops Center in Mandaluyong. I think we’re the only PBA team training there and we’re excited about that. After being delayed for some time, it’s finally here,” he added.

The Alaska coach said everybody is expected to participate in the workouts, save for veteran Sonny Thoss, who asked permission not to join the team in the first few weeks of the training as he evaluates his future in the league.

By the end of last season, Mr. Thoss, a 16-year veteran all with Alaska, was already set to retire but was talked into playing at least one more conference until the pandemic hit.

“He’s unsure what he wants to do. I would still have to discuss with him and see what his final answer would be,” said Mr. Cariaso.

As to the direction of the team in the truncated PBA season, Mr. Cariaso said if the tournament returns this year their push will be the same: to compete.

“We expect to compete. Each and every night we’re going to compete and give our best,” he said.

The Aces are pinning their push on a good mix of up-and-comers, young stars and seasoned veterans.

“We have a balanced lineup and I like our combinations. I expect us to do well,” Mr. Cariaso said.

As a team, Alaska, the second most successful team in PBA history, is gunning for its 15th league title.