Just like most other NBA teams, the Los Angeles Lakers will have to incorporate new additions to their roster in a short period of time as they welcome Wesley Matthews, Montrezl Harrell, Dennis Schroder and Marc Gasol.
At the same time, they will need to figure out how to build team chemistry while avoiding a coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak within the locker room. During the Walt Disney World bubble, players did not have to worry about protocols nearly as much, as they were safer by virtue of being inside a controlled location.
The 2020-21 season will present a whole new set of challenges, as teams will travel between cities to play in home markets. While the NBA and the Lakers have their own protocols in place to help prevent spread, Matthews believes the responsibility will ultimately fall on the players.
“Everything I’ve seen here has been top notch as far as making sure protocols are followed,” Matthews said. “A lot of it is going to come down to the accountability of one’s self. Being part of this championship organization and wanting to repeat — and myself wanting to be in that game and be the last team standing — you’ve got to hold yourself accountable.
“This is going to be in some way tougher than the bubble, because at least in the bubble we knew there were no other distractions. It was difficult to be isolated from what felt like the world, but now to know not only are we looking out for everybody’s family and self, but the Lakers organization is an extension of your family.
“If we want to be the last team standing, we’ve also got to be the healthiest team standing. We’ve got to be accountable and smart individually and collectively.”
Harrell echoed similar sentiments, saying that things will be tougher now that they are not in a controlled environment. “I don’t really think it’s going to be easier, honestly.” said Harrell.
“Now we’re going to actually be back out in somewhat the real world and our day-to-day lives as opposed to being set in one area; all our travel was handled by the staff and people of Disney facilities. It’s going to be a lot different and a lot tougher, because now guys are back in their regular lives, they’re around family and loved ones, so now you have to keep them in that sheltered area so everybody can stay safe.
“It’s definitely going to be a lot tougher and more so making sure we’re doing the right things to not put ourselves in jeopardy to have any setback as far as quarantine or positive tests with COVID.”
Dallas Mavericks All-Star Luka Doncic expressed a belief this season’s champion might simply be the team that does the best job avoiding an outbreak, and the Lakers are hopeful that they can accomplish just that.
The leadership of LeBron James and Anthony Davis will be crucial, as the stricter they are in following the rules, the easier it will be for the rest of the team to follow suit.
Frank Vogel reminding team of protocols set in place
Another way that the Lakers will hope to remain safe and virus-free will be through the leadership of head coach Frank Vogel. He has no interest in losing players or being punished due to a failure to follow protocols.
“We are paying attention to other teams and really other leagues as well. We’re sort of new to the game — we, the NBA — are new to the game in terms of playing professional sports outside of a bubble. We’ve been able to observe and learn lessons from baseball, the NFL, college football, college basketball, about how things look,” Vogel said.
“It’s still going to be very new to us, but we are measuring that with other sports and other teams in our league. We have already talked about making sure that our team follows the protocols for a variety of reasons. We do not want our guys to get sick, to get positive tests — staff or players. We want to try to be as safe as possible.
“We do not want to lose personnel for not following the protocols, and we certainly don’t want to be penalized for anybody in our program not following protocols. We’re putting a heavy emphasis on playing by the rules for a variety of reasons.”
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