With the NBA looking to reduce the risk as best as possible inside the Walt Disney World bubble, teams were instructed to assemble a 35-person travel party that included players, coaches, medical personnel and additional staff.
Los Angeles Lakers vice president of basketball operations Rob Pelinka is expected to travel with the Lakers when they depart for Orlando, Florida, on July 9. “There are a handful of mandated league positions in the 35-person traveling party, and one of them is the lead or one of the lead basketball executives,” he said.
“Assuming I stay health and everything goes well, the plan would be that I would go with the team.”
While Pelinka’s presence was largely a forgone conclusion, the Lakers assembling the rest of their traveling party was much more unclear and a challenging task. Some of that, Pelinka noted, is due to mandated testing.
“I can’t predict testing results on the 7th and 8th. That may affect who can get on the plane, so we are still going through that process,” he said.
Beyond unpredictable matters, the Lakers also grappled with the reality of not being able to take every valued member of their franchise to Orlando. “It’s a really challenging thing because our culture has been built around all of the employees,” Pelinka said.
“Every single person deserves to go and we want them to be there as part of our overall fabric and identity. The process of having to go down to 35 is hard, because we want them to all be there. But we understand for health and safety reasons why that can’t be the case. We’ll continue to go through that process and get down to the 35 that the league is requiring.”
With needing to reduce their group, the Lakers prioritized versatility and having a team-first mentality. “We’re going to all have to call upon different things we can do and be servant-oriented for the players,” Pelinka said. “If it means any of us pitching into an area that we normally don’t do on our day-to-day operations, we’ve got to be willing to do it.
“That’s been a constant source of dialogue internally, is how do we flex staff if we can’t bring our full staff? How do we make up for this job? How do I pitch in and help with that? I think even for the staff members that don’t go, let’s be clear that they will continue to do their jobs and be a big part of what we do as an organization in Orlando.
“They’ll just be doing it remotely, like many of us have been doing our jobs during this COVID pandemic anyway. Just because you don’t get on the plane July 9, doesn’t mean you won’t be in Orlando in spirit with the Lakers and doing the work you do. That’s been a big message.”
Speaking after the Lakers submitted their traveling party list to the NBA, head coach Frank Vogel described it as a “fairly miserable experience” and said the team prioritized “medical personnel.”
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