While the NBA managed to resume the season and begin the playoffs, the setting being in a bubble and overall environment has been discussed ad nauseam. The Los Angeles Lakers are among the several teams that have noted the challenges that presents.
Some of the biggest moments in franchise history have been accompanied by a massive cheer from the home fans. Players of all eras have spoken about how the energy of the home crowd can push and inspire players and not having that will take some getting used to.
But it is also something Magic Johnson believe players will get over. Johnson recently spoke with Arash Markazi of the L.A. Times, explaining that the players will miss the fans and everything they bring, but once the competitiveness kicks in, things will be just fine:
“When you’re going for something and you get past those first few minutes, you don’t know the difference because your competitive juices kick in,” Johnson said during a recent interview. “They’re going to play the game that they love and they’re going to play it 150% like they do with the fans in the stands.
“The only thing they won’t get is that juice when they make a good play or they go on a 12-0 run. There’s nobody there to take them to another level. The crowd takes you to another level. If you’re down, the Lakers fans are some of the best fans in the NBA when they start screaming and hollering. They’ll miss that, but if you think they’re not going to perform just because fans aren’t there, no.”
Johnson also brought up another point, saying that the players on the bench will be even more important in helping to replace the energy that the fans would normally bring:
“The guys sitting on the bench have to be jumping up, hollering and screaming and giving them some juice, and they’ll do that. Those guys sitting on that bench are going to be more important than they have ever been before if there are no fans.”
The Lakers have largely managed to avoid any letdown as a result of playing in an empty arena. Players on the bench — whether reserves or starters when they check out — have all remained engaged and cheered for one another.
Growing comfortable without fans
Having played three scrimmages and eight seeding games inside the Orlando bubble, several Lakers spoke about gradually becoming more and more comfortable with their surroundings. Though, not having fans still stuck with LeBron James.
“I definitely love playing in front of the fans. The fans are what make the game. Without the fans I wouldn’t be who I am today. To all the fans out there that ever came to watch me play, I miss you guys and I hope someday we can get back to that interaction,” he recently said.
“It’s just something that brings an excitement to the game when you’re there, either playing on the road or at home. It goes without saying. For me, as far as the love of the game, it doesn’t matter who’s in the stands, it doesn’t matter what’s going on. My love of the game, once I step on the floor, it becomes a sanctuary for me, so I’m able to lock in once that ball is tipped up.
“Definitely miss our fans, definitely miss being at Staples Center with our fans, being on the road going against fans that boo me, going to my watch my son play and seeing the fans there. The fans are missed.”
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