The restrictions placed in response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic came with its own set of challenges for players once the 2019-20 NBA season was shut down.
Players on the Los Angeles Lakers such as LeBron James and Alex Caruso acknowledged the difficulties of being forced into a state of limbo when there was initial uncertainty surrounding a return-to-play plan.
Now that one has been established for 22 teams to stay in a bubble environment at the Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida, the unprecedented circumstances for the truncated season could provide certain teams with a unique advantage once play begins at the end of the month.
Teams have largely been limited to virtual workouts with their players through Zoom from home while in quarantine. Caruso credited Jared Dudley and James for going the extra mile to keep teammates connected during their time in quarantine.
“I would say Dudley and ‘Bron have been the two most vocal. That’s pretty normal for them as far as outgoing, outspoken and making sure we’re all on the same page,” Caruso said.
“Those are two guys that have been in the league many, many years, so they understand what it takes to have chemistry of a tight-knit group. Obviously, three or four months away from each other, it’s hard to keep that going. But I think they’ve done a great job of keeping everybody connected.”
Caruso added that it should not take much to get the Lakers roster back on the same page given their rapport. “As far as Orlando, we haven’t talked specifically about what we’re looking to do,” he said.
“They’ve outlined a number of things that I know our team has been doing throughout the year as far as bonding. It doesn’t take a lot for this team to have a good time and enjoy each other’s company.”
The chemistry between this Lakers team is partly why vice president of basketball opeartions Rob Pelinka and the front office opted to keep the group intact at the trade deadline. The move could certainly help pay huge dividends for them once the eight seeding games begin.
Dudley previously pointed to the Lakers’ chemistry as a reason the team played throughout much of the season.
Los Angeles has already experienced some turnover by replacing Avery Bradley with JR Smith after he decided to remain at home for the rest of the season. However, his relationship with James as former teammates should provide a sense of familiarity to help smoothen the transition.
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