HAWKS marquee man Deng Adel is confident he'll be fully fit for season tip-off after shrugging off a calf injury suffered in his side's opening preseason game against Perth.
The 23-year-old put a mighty scare through the Illawarra faithful when he hobbled from the floor late in his side's 91-83 defeat to the Wildcats in Perth three weeks ago.
It kept him out of the second leg of a Perth double-header and the Hawks subsequent loss to the Kings on a gruelling six-day preseason stretch prior to Christmas.
COVID impacted both outings, with the second Perth clash cancelled before ultimately going ahead, while the game against the Kings at Homebush was played in an empty arena.
Things have only got tougher for Brian Goorjian's new squad, with the COVID outbreak to hit Sydney and Wollongong throwing the Hawks build-up to their January 14 opener into chaos.
An abrupt shift to Albury on Boxing Day has meant Adel's had to rehab away from the club's Wollongong home base but he's made his way back into the main group and remains confident the injury won't linger.
"It's feeling good, I'm getting back into practice with the guys and things like that," Adel said.
"Thankfully it hasn't been too long. It's preseason and you don't want get hurt in preseason, that's the mindset, but I think I was probably just too excited to play."
It appears the former Cleveland Cavalier's preparation for round one will be on the practice floor, with doubts over where the COVID chaos in NSW and Victoria will see the Hawks head next. With Sydney and Wollongong still not clear of the fresh outbreak, and with three states - including Victoria which was to be their next landing spot - implementing hard border closures, it won't be anywhere close to home.
The NBL moved the Breakers and Phoenix out of Melbourne to Hobart on New Years' Day after the WA and South Australia government shut their borders to Victoria.
The NBL confirmed last week that it was looking to shift the Hawks and Kings out of Albury, but the two NSW franchises remained bunkered down in the border town on Monday.
The league and the two clubs remain committed to playing 14 games at home, but it looks increasingly likely that it would need to back-end an adjusted schedule following the the month-long NBL Cup in Melbourne tipping off at the end of February.
The young Hawks can expect to face their fair share of adversity in the opening stretch, but Adel feels his side has made good use of its time with no fixed address.
"The biggest thing is we're all together, we have the team dinners every night, practice every day and I think it's just giving us the opportunity to get tighter as a team," Adel said.
"We're definitely utilising this time to create that connection and create that bond because, in any season, you have ups and downs. You lose a couple of games and that's when you have to stay together as a group and stay tight.
"I think this opportunity right now with us staying together and getting to know each other... it'll be a lot easier when the season comes around, the bond is there and it's easy to bounce back [from tough times]. I think this time has definitely been useful for us."