The Los Angeles Lakers and the Miami Heat will potentially be at the biggest disadvantage when the NBA returns on Dec. 22, considering both teams still battled it out for the championship just last month.
Player health was among the biggest concerns raised in negotiations between the league and the NBPA due to little time for recovery in an extremely short offseason before both sides agreed on the pre-Christmas tipoff date.
Health officials reportedly believe L.A. might rest their stars in the first weeks of the season, treating it as an extended training camp. But Lakers veteran Jared Dudley thinks physical overload will not be a problem for the NBA champions.
“It’s a disadvantage from a mental (aspect); from a physical standpoint, we’re going to be fine,” he told LakersNation.com in an exclusive interview. “It’s less recovery time (but) we’re deep.”
Dudley added that even though such a quick turnaround might not facilitate L.A’s title defense, particularly early in the season, it is important for the games to resume to ameliorate some of the sufferings the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has caused people around the world.
And he said it will take some of the scheduling burden off the NBA’s shoulders. “It helps them out having that Christmas game, it helps them not having to compete versus the Olympics,” Dudley explained. “If it’s a little disadvantage for us, OK, we’re here for the better of the league.”
Dudley also admitted that financial factors play a big role in the NBA returning so soon, claiming that the Dec. 22 tip-off will result in an extra $250 million in revenue each for both league owners and the players. “There’s too much money to lose. That’s the case here. We have to play,” he said.
Looking back at his team’s journey last season, Dudley pointed out the Lakers went through a particularly difficult path to the NBA Finals even though they were the Western Conference’s top seed.
And hence, the veteran forward believes the reigning champions will still be in pole position to defend the title even if they amass more losses than they would have if the 2020-21 campaign started later.
“We might catch a couple losses here and there when it comes to scheduling. It happens,” Dudley noted. “When it comes down to it in the playoffs, I said this last year, it’s going to be hard to beat us four out of seven.”
Kuzma reportedly hopeful for substantial pay rise
Before the 2020-21 season can start, NBA teams will have to put their rosters together despite having very little time to do so. Free agency will begin on Nov. 20, only a month before the next season’s tipoff.
Kyle Kuzma is one of the few Lakers players already under contract for the 2020-21 campaign. The Utah product, whom Dudley took under his wings last season, is entering the last year on his rookie contract, being eligible for an extension.
Kuzma was an important piece of the championship roster in the Orlando bubble, even though he still failed to meet the expectations set by his superb debut season. Nevertheless, the forward is reportedly hoping to be offered a lucrative contract extension after winning the first title of his career with the Lakers.
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