LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers are still adjusting to the new reality that comes with playing without fans in the stands for games inside the Walt Disney World bubble.
The NBA put in an enormous amount of effort to give the Orlando setting a sense of the same atmosphere that fans would normally create in jam-packed arenas. The designated home team has its branding and characteristic slogans displayed on the digital boards surrounding the court with team-specific music, chants and crowd noise blaring from the speakers throughout the game.
Around 300 NBA fans are also invited to participate in games by appearing live on the 17-foot monitors of the “Michelob ULTRA Courtside.” Home teams determine the lucky supporters who can cheer on the players.
Anthony Davis previously said that while the players are only focused on the game when the ball is in play, the concept of creating home atmosphere with in-venue enhancements is a “dope idea.”
The Lakers were technically hosting the L.A. Clippers in their first seeding game on Thursday night but were the away team in a 107-92 loss to the Toronto Raptors on Saturday. And James seemed to have used the digital gimmicks to put himself in a road-game mode in the crucial moments of the Saturday game.
With both teams reclaiming the lead back and forth, the Laker star looked at the digital stands after sinking a key 3-pointer before the Raptors took off with another 10-0 run to secure the win.
“We have routines, you’ve been doing it for so long, you’re just used to that. You’re just trying to make plays,” James said of his reaction.
“I was trying to put myself in a road environment. It was a Raptors’ home game, so taking and making big shots on a road floor is something that I relish. I love playing on an opponent’s floor. Just trying to have that mindset of going down the stretch in the fourth.”
LeBron turning blind eye to playoff battle for No. 8 seed in Western Conference
James says he is not following the race for the 8th seed in the Western Conference as he is trying to take things in the Orlando bubble with a day-by-day attitude. The Lakers have all but secured the top seed, but it is yet to be determined who they will face in the first round.
Currently, the Memphis Grizzlies occupy the eighth seed with a 32-34 record. But the Portland Trail Blazers, San Antonio Spurs, Sacramento Kings and New Orleans Pelicans are still in contention to trigger a possible play-in tournament.
“I’m not paying attention to what’s going on with the eight seed right now, because there’s too much that can happen with play-in games to decide that. It’s too far away,” James said.
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