NOY Baclao has been cleared to rejoin Meralco practice next month as he makes a full recovery from a serious injury that kept him out of the PBA last season.
Baclao was signed a one-year contract with Meralco just recently.
“Sabi ng PT [physical therapist] ko, end of February or third week of February, puwede na akong maglaro, if ever puwede na mag-practice,” said Baclao. “Excited ako tapos nakapirma pa ako. Well-motivated ako.”
The 33-year-old Baclao signed a fresh deal even though he sat out the bubble in order to fully recover from the ruptured patella tendon injury he suffered when he was still playing for Alaska in 2019.
Baclao said he was actually ready to play in the bubble in what was supposed to be his first conference with Meralco, but eventually decided not to go to Clark in order to focus on making a full recovery.
“Nung bubble, nanghihinayang nga ako na hindi ako nakapaglaro pero good decision na rin,” said Baclao.
The 6-foot-5 Baclao expressed his gratitude towards Meralco, which took care of him and his family even after his previous contract with the team expired last August.
“As a player tapos injured pa, nung pandemic parang hindi rin ako mapakali kasi ‘yung contract ko rin [hanggang] end of August lang," said the former top overall pick.
"Pero inalagaan talaga ako ng Meralco at ang pamilya ko. Dun talaga ako sobrang grateful sa ginawa nila. Inaalagaan talaga nila kung sino ‘yung nasa ilalim nila. Sobrang grateful ako tapos nakapirma pa ako. Blessing talaga,” added Baclao.
Meralco coach Norman Black said Baclao was sorely missed during Meralco's campaign in the Clark bubble, which ended on Scottie Thompson three-pointer that carried Barangay Ginebra to victory in Game Five of their semifinal playoff.
Asked for his reaction, Baclao said he could've provided quality minutes as back-up to bigs Raymond Almazan and Reynel Hugnatan.
“’Yung tiwala pa rin ni coach Norman nandoon. Thankful ako sa tiwala. Kahit sino, manghihinayang na wala ako dun na makabigay man lang ng five minutes na (makakapahinga) si Almazan or sa kahit sinong bigs,” said Baclao.
"Hindi ko sinasabing mag-iiba ang landscape, pero makakatulong."