When the NBA suspended operations on March 11 due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, the Los Angeles Lakers were playing their best basketball of the season. Although they were coming off a loss to the Brooklyn Nets, they had just notched back to back wins against the Milwaukee Bucks and L.A. Clippers.
They went into the hiatus — and return to the court at Disney World — with a 5.5-game lead for the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference. Their success was obviously about LeBron James and Anthony Davis, but role players like Alex Caruso, Avery Bradley and Danny Green contributed in many ways.
Caruso was one of the league’s most efficient players, especially when playing alongside James. He became one of the Lakers most reliable perimeter defenders and had a good chemistry with all of his teammates.
When it comes to getting back into game shape, the Lakers will need to not only focus on the physical, but the mental aspect of it as well. Caruso said most of the Lakers’ success prior to the break was a result of their mental shape, via “The Lowe Post” podcast:
“I think it was more mental than it was physical to get to that point. It was just about us executing every time down the floor and being diligent about spacing and making the right cuts and reads off post-ups. And defensive schemes being accurate and executing every time down the floor. I think getting to that level physically is going to be the hardest part.
Caruso added the real challenge for the NBA’s return to play will be getting back into physical shape, as the mental side already has a framework:
“Just because 60 games, it’s hard to replicate that unless you’ve played 60 games. I know that sounds like so many games but it actually gets a little easier. I say easier, obviously I’m not playing 30 or 40 minutes a game, but it gets easier to get into that shape of playing games the more you do it. I think it’s going to be more of a challenge physically to get back to where we were than mentally.”
The Lakers had some of the NBA’s best chemistry at the time of the hiatus, and it seems as though the team has kept in consistent contact throughout the last couple of months. Mentally, there’s no reason why their chemistry shouldn’t pick up right where it left off in March.
Having now arrived in Orlando, Florida, the Lakers are less than a week from scrimmages and closing in on restarting the season July 30.
With Bradley already having opted out of the NBA restart, the Lakers suffered another loss when Rajon Rondo fractured his right thumb during the team’s second practice in Orlando. Head coach Frank Vogel emphasized the team will take a collective approach to replacing Bradley and Rondo, but also acknowledged Caruso is among those who could see his role expand.
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