G League Ignite coach Brian Shaw expressed his full support to Kai Sotto’s decision to return to the Philippines and play for the national team but admits he’s unsure if the 7-foot-3 talent can still return in time to play in their upcoming season given the strict health protocols inside the Walnut Creek bubble.

/ 29 January 2021

Sotto made an announcement last week that he is going home to the Philippines to join Gilas Pilipinas for the third and final window of the FIBA Asia Cup 2021 qualifiers.

In a Zoom call with reporters on Thursday morning, Manila time, the veteran coach said that he and the entire Ignite team fully support the decision of Sotto.

“One of the things, before all these guys entered the program, was that we weren’t gonna hold anybody back. We commend our players for wanting to represent their countries in that fashion,” said Shaw.

“That was a decision that Kai and his team wanted (and) thought was important for him so we supported him in going to be part of that,” he added.

Shaw quoted that in late November, Ignite’s big man Princepal Singh also left the squad to play for his national team, India, in the second qualifying window. Singh has since returned to Team Ignite.

However, in the Filipino center’s case, it was a different story as the start of the G League season will collide with the February window of the FIBA qualifiers.

Sotto’s decision came at a time when the Philippines withdrew its hosting due to the travel ban imposed by the government. The games were originally scheduled for February 17-22 in Clark, Pampanga.

The Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) said Sotto will still be joining Gilas despite the cancellation of the country’s hosting.

If the FIBA schedule pushes through without a hitch, Sotto is set to fly out after Gilas’ game on February 21.

The G League will use the same protocols NBA used in their earlier Orlando Bubble setup.

Under those health protocols, a four-day quarantine period is mandatory for all players arriving at the Orlando bubble and a 14-day isolation period for players testing positive for COVID-19.

Moreover, a player has to receive two negative tests 24 hours apart before rejoining their team.

If the Filipino baller shows up in Orlando on February 23, the earliest he can reunite with Ignite is on February 27 or 28 if he clears the four-day quarantine period.

And Ignite will only have five or four games left in their regular-season schedule.

There would still be a possibility of Sotto playing in G-League of the Ignite team advances to the top eight in a single-elimination playoff, which will begin on March 8 and conclude with the NBA G Finals on March 11.

On the other hand, the Ignite team, bannered by Fil-Am guard Jalen Green and Jonathan Kuminga, will make its G League debut at the NBA’s Disney World bubble in Orlando Florida on February 10 against Jeremy Lin and the Santa Cruz Warriors.

All teams are scheduled to play 15 regular-season games until March 6, with the single-elimination playoff set to begin on March 8 and the final on March 11.

Shaw uttered that he is still wary of Sotto’s timetable.

“Unfortunately, a lot of it is during the time of when we’re gonna be in the bubble and so we just wish him the best. We worked with him up until the point that he left, and hopefully he’ll be able to go there and perform well,” said Shaw.

“Depending on the timing of everything, you know, especially because he’s traveling internationally, you know the quarantine times can be a lot longer so we don’t know how that’s going to play out when it’s all said and done, in terms of him coming back and joining the team or not,” he added.

The veteran coach still wishes Sotto the best in the upcoming qualifiers.

“We want him to do well in those competitions and if the timing and everything comes back, we’ll see what happens then,” said Shaw.