The 2019-20 NBA season has been unlike any other in the sport’s history, and while teams have been forced to navigate challenges brought about by a pandemic, it has been particularly trying for the Los Angeles Lakers.
Excitement of trading for Anthony Davis and filling out the roster around he and LeBron James with veterans was quickly tempered. The Lakers were part of the NBA China games, which began on the wrong foot because of Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey tweeting his support of protesters in Hong Kong.
That caused friction between the Chinese government and the NBA, as the prospect of the games being held suddenly was in doubt. Appearances and other events were cancelled, leaving the Lakers essentially forced to quarantine inside their hotel.
According to ESPN’s Dave McMenamin, that time together entailed doing multiple activities as a team:
The Ritz-Carlton is connected to the Shanghai International Finance Center, which features a high-end mall and a Morton’s steakhouse. With the entire team in attendance, dinners at Morton’s lasted for hours. If it wasn’t a meal, it was a shopping trip to the mall or a group workout in the hotel gym.
“It was interesting,” a team source said. “They were in a bubble. They started the season in a bubble, and they’re going to end it in a bubble.”
Origins of the Lakers’ bonding process technically began in Las Vegas, with James organization a players-only mini training camp. That seemingly has proven key to the team staying together in the face of adversity.
While the Lakers begin the NBA restart with a 5.5-game lead over the L.A. Clippers for the best record in the Western Conference, getting there off the court has been anything but smooth sailing.
Most notably with the passing of Lakers legend Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gianna and seven others in a tragic helicopter accident in January. It occurred the morning after James passed Bryant for third place on the NBA’s all-time scoring list. The two spoke postgame.
The Lakers learned of the horrific incident while on their cross-country flight home. A Jan. 28 game against the Clippers was postponed, and the Lakers didn’t return to the court until three days after that.
One month before tragedy struck the Bryant and Lakers family, owner Jeanie Buss lost her mother to a long-term illness.
And now this month, the Lakers have needed to adjust to life inside the NBA bubble at Walt Disney World. To a man they’ve embraced taking the experience in stride and spoken highly of the camaraderie that exists throughout the roster.
Now all that’s left to be answered is whether they can overcome the final hurdle and win a championship.
Learning to cope with challenges
Given all that has transpired this season, the Lakers have become adept to playing amid trying circumstances. “We definitely adjusted, but it doesn’t feel normal,” JaVale McGee recently said of the season. “I don’t think it’s singularly our team.
“I feel like the world has a lot of weight on their shoulders right now; coronavirus really set things back. For us particularly, the Kobe accident really was heavy on our hearts. I feel like 2020 in general has been heavy for a lot of people. Not just the Los Angeles Lakers.”
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