Just like that, 56 days after the Lakers won the franchise’s 17th NBA championship, the team was back on the court this weekend conducting its first practice in what is sure to be a weird and wild 2020-21 season, likely to show far more of an impact from the COVID-19 pandemic than last year.
Indications of just how weird were visible for the Lakers who did not conduct the traditional type of run-till-you-drop opening practice the league so often tips off its season with. Instead, Vogel said the Lakers mostly did non-contact walkthroughs and, significantly, said that he did not have a full roster for the practice.
“We’ve just got to make the most of it,” Vogel told reporters in his first virtual conference call after the practice.
ALL the latest Los Angeles Lakers news straight to your inbox! Join the Heavy on Lakers newsletter here!
Vogel was purposefully vague on which players were active in practice, but only because he is not allowed to say which players may have been infected by COVID-19. Still, that did raise some concerns here at the beginning of camp.
Vogel did clarify that he had “most” of his players on hand and that newly re-signed Quinn Cook was held out because he has not had enough time to pass the league’s COVID-19 protocols.
Lakers, NBA Starting Season With COVID-19 Concerns
The Lakers, like all NBA teams, are heading into an entirely new situation as they look to begin the season—which tips off, for the Lakers, against the Clippers on December 22—without the sterile surroundings of the bubble environment that teams had endured during the NBA restart in Orlando this summer. Strict rules surrounding that environment helped secure a COVID-19-free experience for the 22 teams involved.
But other sports around the country and the world have attempted restarts without a bubble-style environment and have had their schedules shredded because of it. Major League Baseball managed to plow through a season with the Dodgers crowned as champions, but the outset of the season was marred by a slew of COVID-19 positives and the shutdown of several series.
The NFL is now experiencing similar difficulties with its 2020 schedule and in college football, several high-profile games have had to be canceled altogether.
Vogel said he and the Lakers understand that background. Teams will go back to playing in their home arenas, though without fans, and players will be able to live at their homes. But that adds responsibility to the players themselves to avoid situations in which they could be infected by COVID-19.
“We do not want our guys to get sick—staff or players,” Vogel said. “We want to try to be as safe as possible. We do not want to lose personnel for not following the protocols.”
NBA Issues 158-Page COVID-19 Guidelines
Indeed, the NBA has issued a 158-page set of COVID-19 protocols that all teams and players are expected to follow. Among the protocols are dining only at outdoor or NBA-approved restaurants, random checks of team practice facilities, and a ban on players attending gatherings of any kind of more than 15 people.
According to a memo from the NBA, reported by ESPN, violation of COVID-19 rules could result in, “fines, suspensions, adjustment or loss of draft choices and game forfeitures.”
Vogel said the Lakers have no intention of running afoul of league monitors.
“We’re putting a heavy emphasis on playing by the rules here,” he said.