Resuming the 2019-20 NBA season in a bubble at Walt Disney World due to the ongoing coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has required a number of sacrifices from every party involved.
The Los Angeles Lakers already are without Avery Bradley due to that factor, and they were in danger of potentially losing Alex Caruso for two weeks as well.
Caruso was invited to his sister’s wedding, which was scheduled for July 18 in Texas, a place where virus cases are spiking. The wedding had over 100 guests and would have taken place indoors, meaning Caruso would’ve been considered high risk upon his return to the bubble.
However, it is his sister, and someone who is extremely close to him. Despite the risk — and the proximity to the season — Caruso said Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka and head coach Frank Vogel approved his initial request to go, according to Zach Lowe of ESPN:
“Megan is as close to my No. 1 fan as anyone could get,” he told ESPN this week. The two have friends in common, and many would be at the wedding.
He broached the subject with Frank Vogel, the Lakers’ coach, and Rob Pelinka, their vice president of basketball operations and general manager, when the team resumed workouts in Los Angeles. Both approved of Caruso attending, he said. (Lakers’ officials declined comment.)
Due to the risks of the wedding and the required prolonged quarantine upon return to the bubble, Caruso and the Lakers decided it would be best for him to stay. Caruso, despite staying, was happy with the support he received from the team:
As the wedding approached and the coronavirus situation in Texas worsened, Lakers officials in talks with NBA staff relayed to Caruso his quarantine period would likely at least approach that 10-day threshold, he said. Caruso and others involved understood the guidelines mentioned the possibility of 14-day quarantines, though it is unclear what scenario (if any) would trigger a quarantine of that length.
“They supported my decision either way,” Caruso said. “They also helped me realize how important I am to what we are trying to do here, now that [Avery Bradley] didn’t make it and [Rajon Rondo] hurt his hand. There is some added responsibility.” In the end, everyone with the Lakers made it clear they would be fine with Caruso leaving. “They had my back,” Caruso said. “I felt genuine support from the organization.”
While Caruso had approval from the team if he wanted to leave, staying inside the bubble was certainly the safest decision. With the wedding being last week, Caruso would have missed all three scrimmage games and possibly more depending on the length of his league-mandated quarantine.
Missing all of that practice and game time on a team that is already without two guards would have been trouble for L.A. Not having Bradley and Rajon Rondo only emphasizes Caruso’s already growing importance to the team.
From a basketball standpoint, Caruso made the right choice staying in Orlando.
Pelinka and Vogel demonstrate team-first approach by helping with practice drills
If one thing has been emphasized for the Lakers during their time in the bubble, it’s a team-first approach. Everybody is going through the same challenges, and so they must support each other to build chemistry and get through a difficult time.
This was demonstrated by Pelinka and Vogel, who have proven in their first year together that they practice what they preach. Due to a lack of supplies in the bubble, Pelinka and Vogel were stand-ins at Lakers practices. They acted as rebounders, cones for drills, and anything else that was needed.
Seeing this type of action from someone so high up in the ranks of the team shows that familial nature of the Lakers organization.
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