Nathan Sobey battling to be ready for start of NBL23, championship ring top of mind

Brisbane Bullets guard Nathan Sobey is in a race against the clock to be healthy for the start of NBL23, with an extensive rehab process underway to recover from bone bruising in his knee.

The star local was restricted to just 12 appearances last season, with a comeback attempt thwarted after continued struggles with the troublesome injury causing player and team to take the long, methodical approach to a return to the floor.

"We thought with a bit of time it would gradually go away so we took a little break and tried to come back and gradually build up. I came back in that first week, got through the first game half decent and then second game it just didn't feel great," Sobey told ESPN.

"I pulled up pretty bad, got reassessed and it had gotten worse again. If I rushed it back again it could play a big part moving forward, especially with the club and re-signing for the next three years they didn't think it was in their best interest as well, so we decided to shut it down."

Sobey committed to the Bullets long term, with the soon-to-be 32-year-old admitting it was an easy decision to stay with the club despite interest coming from multiple NBL rivals.

"Agents are always going to explore the market. Overall, me and my family love it here in Brisbane, this is home for us now, we've got a great support for us here even though our families are down south. We definitely love it up here and love the people we've got involved with us, so we were very happy to be able to get it done long term."

"I think we've got a lot of talent coming in, young guys out of college so to have some energy from that aspect is great for a couple of us older guys. I think hitting the market with the imports and really nailing that is going to be a huge part for us moving forward."

While family life was a significant contributor to the decision as a father of two young children, the commitment to the club remains a show of faith in general manager Sam Mackinnon, head coach James Duncan and the rest of the Bullets leadership, with plenty of holes to fill on the roster including the all-important import slots.

"There's always communication, being one of the elder guys, talking to Sam and the club and people involved in that process, it's just having a little chat every now and then and seeing what it's looking like. I've got all the trust in their hands, they'll put something together, I think we've done a pretty good job brining in guys like Vic Law, Robert Franks, Lamar Patterson the year before that, I think they've done a great job."

One position of need for an import spot is at guard, with Sobey oftentimes asked to carry the load scoring and facilitating in previous seasons.

"Me and Jase Cadee talk about it regularly, having someone come in at the point guard position and play alongside us and take some of that pressure off would go a huge way. I think that's the plan moving forward so hopefully we can bring someone in like that."

With so many Australian and NBL connections currently participating at Summer League, Sobey admits he doesn't consume a lot of basketball in his rare allotment of spare time. However, the Boomers bronze medallist is incredibly proud of his Olympic teammate Aron Baynes, who has recently conducted workouts for NBA teams in Las Vegas.

Baynes' remarkable and inspiring recovery from a severe spinal cord injury has touched the entire Australian basketball community, with the big man planning a return to the hardwood for the upcoming season.

"From what it was, the injury, from how he was operating coming back to Australia and how many countless hours he's put into the physio, the rehab is pretty crazy. To see him back out on the court and working out, it's kind of a miracle but he's done a great job to get him where he is.

"I've seen him working out in the gym and seen all the effort he's put in; he lives in Brisbane, so I've been able to catch up with him and spend some time with him and see the progress. To be able to see what it was to what it is now is pretty special."

While the NBA remains the target, the Australian basketball community is naturally buzzing at the idea of an Aussie star like Baynes suiting up in the NBL at some stage.

"I try not to bring it on too much because obviously everyone is saying it. I'd be lying to say that I wouldn't love playing with him, so I have thrown a couple hints across every now and then.

"Whatever happens with the NBA and trying to get back, I hope it happens because he deserves it, but if there's a slight chance that we do try to get him in Brisbane, I'd definitely love to play with him."

For now, Sobey is locked into his rehab, with Bullets preseason set to tip off at the beginning of next month. As the NBL returns to a usual schedule beginning in late September/early October, it leaves the sharpshooter with roughly 10 weeks to opening night, a timeframe that could yet prove difficult to reach.

"We are putting together some drills with techniques before I start running again. Landing techniques, taking off techniques, just so mechanically we've got everything in line moving forward to keep that the best we can.

"I can't really say I'll be scrimmaging in two weeks or one month, it's once I pass a step I can move on, then I can run in straight lines again, so there's a fair process to it all. I've still got a long way to go but if I can continue to recover and keep doing what I'm doing, fingers crossed I'll be ready pretty soon."

While the Bullets roster has plenty of holes and Sobey remains a fair way from five-on-five action, when he does return, the goal is simple. For a player who has achieved so much, there is one clear box left to check.

"I want to win an NBL championship," he declares.

"That's one thing that sticks to me and keeps coming to mind. I want to accomplish it before I finish playing for sure. Obviously, it's not easy but that's the main thing that keeps coming to my mind every year, I just keep thinking about it so that's a goal of mine. Hopefully we can put a great group together this year and give it a red-hot crack."

Catch the full conversation with Nathan Sobey on ESPN's Ball and the Real World podcast - Available wherever you get your podcasts