One of the early sub-plots to the 2021-22 season is the vaccination status of players and team personnel.
As of now, there is no mandate for players to be vaccinated as the NBA Players Association has taken a hard stance on the issue, but teams like the Los Angeles Lakers will be fully vaccinated by Opening Night. Because the team is projected to be fully vaccinated, they will have looser health and safety protocols compared to individuals who are not.
Rob Pelinka’s statement was a surprise given that players like Kent Bazemore have been hesitant about the vaccine in the past. However, Bazemore was honest about his original thoughts on the vaccine and his current vaccination status, which was influenced by a conversation with Pelinka.
“Early on…I’m a big health advocate I do everything I can to take care of my body. Nutrition, hydration, recovery, weight training, everything I take upon myself to stay healthy. When the vaccine first came out I felt like it was kind of forced on me and I’m not a person that responds well to that. It just kind of put this shell around me, I kind of fought it off a little bit. My body didn’t really…I’m a big energy person I didn’t feel the right energy towards it, but I had a good call with Rob Pelinka and he laid it down to me in the most…in the most fairly honest way I ever heard. And to pass up an opportunity like this, to be on a roster with so many greats especially from my era it would be hard opportunity to pass up.
“And then at the end of the day what helps me sleep about– I have my first dose, get my second dose here in a couple weeks. But what helps me sleep at night is that I made the decision for myself and I just didn’t get it because I was told to. At the end of the day, I’ve made a ton of sacrifices playing this game of basketball and that’s what this game is all about. Once I’ve got it, it’s good I can that I can kind of put it behind me and focus on basketball.”
High-profile names like Kyrie Irving and Bradley Beal gave roundabout answers as to why they were not vaccinated, but Bazemore did well in explaining his thought process and ultimately why he decided to change his mind. He also explained why he was hesitant in the first place.
“At the end of the day, you want to live your life. You don’t want to have this whatever it is looming over your shoulder and having you view the world differently and whatever you can do. It wasn’t really pertaining to the vaccine, per se, it was just kind of a life philosophy. Whatever you can do, life is going to be stressful anyway. Regardless of what walk of life you come from, there’s going to be trials and tribulations but whatever you can do get rid of some of the distractions and just live your live. Continue to do the things you do, like I’m going to continue to take care of my body, I’m going to continue put the right things in my body, I’m going to continue do all of those things. But I got one big monkey off of my back, especially pertaining to my job and what would it cost not being able to play in a gym inside the whole state of California or New York. I can sleep well at night knowing that I don’t have to deal with that. For me, that’s just what it is. I want to live to see 130, so if I don’t get this vaccine I got that kind of stress on me and there’s no way.”
Getting vaccine was not a condition on coming to Los Angeles
While Bazemore’s conversation with Pelinka was perceived by many as a condition for Bazemore to get the vaccine if he wants to play for the Lakers, he clarified that was not the case.
“No. I will say the front office and the organization did an amazing job of first off hearing me out and why I didn’t want to do it in the first place. They were really diligent in the whole process of staying patient with me and I think the most important thing was that phone call. Cause first they were talking through my agent, but once we got on the phone together and kind of shared our pieces I thought about it for a couple days over the weekend and I made a decision to go through with it.
“One thing you don’t want to have is regret and if I go to another team or miss this season because I didn’t do it and I gotta watch these guys party with the Larry O’Brien Trophy, I’m gonna be pretty hurt. Like I said earlier, it’s a situation that you can’t pass up and I’m glad I’m putting it behind me.”
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