Los Angeles Lakers head coach Frank Vogel just helped the team get their 17th championship within the confines of a bubble, practically eliminating the home-court advantage the team had earned as the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference.
Now, the Lakers have to face a completely new situation and challenge: playing at Staples Center and other arenas without fans in attendance, or only a limited crowd in select markets.
The Lakers announced earlier in the offseason that, for the time being, fans would not be allowed at Staples Center during the 2020-21 season. This is due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic that continues to ravage through Southern California and the entire United States.
Perhaps that will change by the playoffs, but there will certainly be no fans for the foreseeable future. Nonetheless, Vogel believes the Lakers — and other teams — will gain from playing in home markets rather than a bubble.
“I think there will be more of a home-court advantage for teams this season than there was in the bubble, because of travel more than the in-game environment,” he said. “Obviously the arena will feel more comfortable to us than our opponents, but with no fans there, you’re not really getting that energy differential.
“As for what to expect for what it’s going to feel like, who knows? The league has said some of the arenas are going to have the pumped-in noise, but not necessarily all of them. I don’t even know what we’re doing, to be honest with you.
“I haven’t been paying attention to that. It’s definitely going to feel different than the bubble. It’s a far bigger building, more space, so we’ll just have to see how it feels.”
Vogel also said that this shouldn’t cause any changes to the Lakers pregame routines at Staples Center. “We’ll have to see how this group responds to the work that we’re doing. I really don’t think I’ll have a different approach based on fans with regards to whether we’ll have shootarounds or afternoon walkthroughs at Staples,” he said.
“It’s just what our group is going to need at that time. I will say this weekend we are going to do one of each, just to get a feel for that. We’ll have a morning shootaround [Friday] and on Sunday, we will have a walkthrough at Staples.
“So our guys will get used to both formats. I don’t think the fan-less environment will impact whether or not we’re having shootaround (at Staples Center).”
This is similar to Vogel’s approach from last season, when the team did not have shootarounds the morning of Sunday home games.
It appears that L.A. is prepared for the fan-less season, only getting small glimpses of fans in markets where they are allowed at extremely limited capacity.
Marc Gasol praises Lakers, L.A. County
New Lakers center Marc Gasol spoke about what things will be like without fans. However, he used the question to speak about the difference between the Lakers and teams in other states.
“We haven’t really talked about our situation specifically. We talked a little bit about how some other teams seem like they’re going to have people at the arenas,” he said.
“It goes from state to state, but that to me, still brings some questions. But that’s for me personally. I would like a little more explaining how come some arenas allow fans. I don’t understand the different laws in different states; I think we should have the same for everyone.
“That’s just my opinion. Obviously it’s an ever changing situation for everyone. We’re very fortunate to be in a safe environment. NBA, the Lakers, L.A. County does a great job of having us as safe as possible and having a lot of protocols and stuff we go through every day.”
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