The Los Angeles Lakers began to hit their stride and were sitting atop the Western Conference with a 49-14 record before the 2019-20 NBA season was suspended in response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
Although the league is doing what it can to crown a champion this year, commissioner Adam Silver has already addressed the prospect of playing without any fans in attendance — and a neutral site. After all, finding ways to ensure player safety for a potential return has proven to be challenging enough.
While players have acknowledged that not having fans in the seats during games would take some getting used to, it simply cannot be helped if they hope to resume the season. Unfortunately, this may also take away a significant edge from the Lakers in the playoffs.
According to Greg Beacham of The Associated Press, Jared Dudley pointed out that not getting a chance to play at Staples Center takes away a possible home-court advantage over the L.A. Clippers during the entire Western Conference Finals:
“If we would have had the playoffs and been able to play Clippers in the Western Conference Finals, for sure, that would have been seven home games potentially for us.”
Dudley’s comments are certainly understandable considering it has been deemed a foregone conclusion that the Conference Finals would be played entirely at the Staples Center. Like the Lakers, the Clippers also managed to follow through on the hype by going 44-20 to secure the second seed in the West before the hiatus.
Both crosstown rivals have dominated the headlines this season, however, it is no secret that little has changed in terms of fan support in Los Angeles. This was extremely evident by the disproportionate amount of purple and gold to red and blue in the crowd during their three matchups this year, regardless of which was considered the home team.
Dudley’s remarks could have been more significant if Staples Center and L.A. Live had managed to gain any traction in a pitch to the NBA on being a host city.
Unfortunately, fan support can no longer be considered a factor as teams prepare to hunker down in a centralized location in Orlando or Las Vegas to end the year in quiet fashion. While the prospect of inadvertently evening the playing field for the postseason is certainly an intriguing one, the Lakers are perhaps the team with the most to lose.