The NBA continues to navigate unfamiliar territory after having to suspend the 2019-20 season in response to the coronavirus pandemic.
There is no question that the timing of the hiatus was hardly ideal for the Los Angeles Lakers. After all, they had secured the top spot in the Western Conference at 49-14 and were preparing to shift gears for the 2020 NBA playoffs heading into the final stretch.
According to Jackie MacMullen of ESPN, head coach Frank Vogel acknowledged that he has had to encourage his team to flip the switch until play resumes:
“I’ve mentally flipped my seasons,” Vogel explained. “I’m in the summer now. I really feel it’s necessary for us to mentally decompress. It’s a better mindset than trying to power through this. If we sprint through what could potentially be a two- to three-month break, with workouts and meetings and projects and film throughout, will we be fresh when it matters?”
Vogel added that his priority now will be making sure the Lakers can turn it back on whenever the playoffs begin this time around:
“We need to realize ‘when it matters’ could be July or August.”
Vogel’s comments are telling of just how much of an impact that the hiatus has had on day-to-day operations. Although players and coaches alike tend to be creatures of habit, the sudden break from basketball has essentially forced them to find a balance between maintaining their in-season mentality without exhausting themselves by the time they return to the court.
Of course, it is safe to say that this will be much easier said than done given all the new restrictions in place amid the ongoing pandemic. The Lakers have already begun to seek out other alternative methods such as using the video conferencing app Zoom to help them coordinate home workouts and keep the players engaged.
Regardless, the onus will ultimately fall on Vogel to get this team back up to speed whenever the NBA decides on a way to resume the season.
Although a sluggish Lakers team could prove to be its own biggest challenge in the playoffs, there is good reason to be optimistic considering the job he has done with them so far. It will be interesting to see just how quickly Vogel can get them back on track as a heavy championship favorite.