On New Year’s Eve, the Los Angeles Lakers finally got a taste of what they might look like at full strength, getting nearly their full complement of players back around LeBron James and Russell Westbrook. In a 33-point win over the Portland Trail Blazers, only Anthony Davis and Kendrick Nunn were inactive due to injury or coronavirus (COVID-19).
The Lakers finally being healthy after a COVID outbreak ravaged the team allowed them to actually rest people amid a blowout. No one played more than 30 minutes — Westbrook and Malik Monk — a luxury the team did not have just a few games ago.
Westbrook, after the game, spoke about having most of their players back in action and what it did for them on the court. “It’s big for us. We’ve had a lot of those guys out and it takes a toll on your team and we need everybody on our roster as you can see, and tonight was a good night to be able to get guys back into a little bit of a rhythm defensively, and it was good.”
Frank Vogel also made his return to the Lakers bench on New Year’s Eve, something Westbrook was happy about. ”
Definitely. Not just Frank, but getting a lot of our guys back creates some time of normalcy for our team and it’s good to be able to see their faces,” Westbrook said. “Not just that, but to see them healthy, that’s the most important part.
“Going through COVID, it’s bigger than basketball, your long-term and short-term health. So just to see them healthy and feeling better is the most important part.”
Based on the results against the Trail Blazers, it appears that everyone is healthy and feeling good as we enter 2022. Seven players reached double figures on Friday, including James, Westbrook, Monk, Stanley Johnson, Austin Reaves, Carmelo Anthony and Talen Horton-Tucker.
And over the next few games, players like Reaves and Trevor Ariza will be able to improve their conditioning and provide even more impactful minutes for L.A. They’ll need it, as they’re only a couple of games away from their schedule highly intensifying.
Vogel happy to be back
Vogel missed six games in the league’s health and safety protocols, with the Lakers going 1-5 in those games. He spoke about his experience in isolation and how he feels now that he’s back.
“It’s something I really never want to do again,” Vogel said. “I don’t think I’ve ever missed a game as a head coach, so to miss six was challenging. Obviously physically challenging for what I was going through, but mentally challenging as well.
“Being in isolation, trying to help your team and your staff as much as you can remotely, giving input but also trying to empower them to coach the team and use their gut and their instincts and the whole thing was challenging. I’m happy to be back.”
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