Los Angeles Lakers vice president of basketball operations and general manager Rob Pelinka has had to navigate unprecedented times during his first season as the team’s top ranking basketball executive.
The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has been just another of the immense challenges, but Pelinka has remained a strong leader through it all. He will be joining the Lakers when they head to Orlando, Florida, on July 9 as one of the 35 members of the team’s traveling party.
Once the team arrives, they’ll have a number of challenges to address. For one, they’ll need to get back in basketball shape in a hurry, as they have not played together as a team since March 10.
Second, they’ll need to be mentally prepared to face this challenge as a team, something Pelinka says is even more important than the physical aspects. “I think it’s very significant in terms of a team identifying its fabric, DNA and chemistry. I think Orlando itself is going to be as much of a mental test as it is a physical test,” he said.
“We have put a ton of thought into the mental part of this journey. It is going to be a physical and mental grind, and I think the mental component might even be more paramount.
“We have mental wellness people on staff and we’ve been working hard with them on developing a protocol to address some of the concerns that are going to come up from an extended time away from family or an extended time of living in a city that’s not your home.
“Watching ‘The Last Dance,’ you saw how Phil Jackson had different things he would introduce into the team practices. I remember there was one scene of them doing yoga or mediation, so I like that idea, and those things will probably be part of the longer protocol there to keep guys fresh, keep life interesting and keeping everyone’s passions sharpened. I’m sure there will be many, many stories coming out of Orlando about some of the different practices that evolve once we get down there.”
Chemistry will have to be leaned on in a major way for the Lakers to survive some of the challenges. It’s an are Pelinka believes the Lakers will have a leg up on their competition.
“I think a team like ours that has such a strong togetherness component, will have an advantage at that part,” he said. “This team of guys loves being together and they love playing together, so I think that’s the significance of the 63 games.”
Pelinka seems more than well equipped to help his team get through what will undoubtedly be a difficult time. Lakers players and staff will not have a chance to see their families until the second round of the playoffs.
Mentally, L.A. has formed a great bond this season that will perhaps help to ease the transition into Orlando. If the Lakers look at each other as a family, getting through those two months without their real families seems a little less difficult.
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