A sense of normalcy is returning to the NBA as the Los Angeles Lakers will finally play in front of fans at Staples Center on Thursday.
A few teams have allowed spectators inside their arenas since the beginning of the 2020-21 season. The decision depended on the coronavirus (COVID-19) situation in each market and L.A. ruled it would start off the campaign without fan attendance.
But for the first time this season, about 2,000 Lakers sympathizers will cheer on the reigning NBA champions from the Staples Center stands in a game against the Boston Celtics. The franchise made the decision amid a decline in COVID-19 cases and the rapid vaccine rollout in the U.S.
Head coach Frank Vogel said the presence of fans could provide a major energy boost for the team. The Lakers faithful, he added, makes for a big part of what makes the organization great. “Can’t wait, man, I can’t wait,” he said. “The mystique of being in that building with our great fans is a big part of why it’s so cool to be a Laker and it’s just been absent this year and it’s been missed and we’re excited to have our fans back for sure.
“That energy, we’ve been playing basketball for a long time, that energy that the crowd gives you, that you feed off of, that can be big for not even just me, but for the team and any individual player on the team.”
Kyle Kuzma echoed Vogel’s words and added that even a limited number of fans – which might increase in the coming days in case of no setbacks — inside Staples Center will make a difference. Away games, the forward pointed out, in the markets that allowed limited attendance had a special feeling to them. “It’s like a sellout,” he said.
“For real, for real. I’m not going to lie to you. Having fans, 2,000-3,000 after playing in a bubble, which was as some of you guys know more of a production stage than playing in empty arenas for the majority of the year.
“To have 2,000 fans I think tonight, Charlotte went on a little run, got the lead down to 1, 92-91. It was rocking in there. 2,000 fans, so it feels good to play in front of people. Play in front of fans of the NBA. It’s good. It’s a part of the game and it’s a huge part of the game.”
Kuzma: ‘Only fitting’ to raise banner with fans at Staples Center
Lakers controlling owner Jeanie Buss has announced the franchise will unveil the 2019-20 championship on May 12, before the clash against the Houston Rockets. Buss said before that she wanted the fans to partake in the momentous ceremony and added recently that she hoped LeBron James and Anthony Davis could return from their injuries for the event.
Kuzma lauded the organization for the decision to wait with the unveiling until Lakers fans could attend it. “Only fitting to have fans during that game and to have fans in the championship banner raise in May,” he said. “It’s exciting.”
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