On the first day of the Lakers’ training camp, coach Frank Vogel looked around and saw less than last year.
Less conditioning. Less fame. Fewer executives and available short contract players. Not even the Lakers’ main roster was complete, with Quinn Cook (testing protocols) and Alfonzo McKinnie (apologized absence) not in practice. There’s also less time with a pre-season game against the Clippers on Friday, December 11.
“We are much more shorthand than last year this time,” said Vogel. “And we just have to make the most of it.”
And so began the Lakers’ quest to win a second consecutive NBA title on Sunday in El Segundo, as the Lakers had their first official group training after more than a week of coronavirus testing protocols and individual sessions.
In a normal year, it would be the first formal gathering after a month of unofficial pick-up games and training. As the Lakers bring back nine players from last year’s championship squad, there were certainly more strangers than they are used to.
Aware of the risk of injury with minimal conditioning and training build-up, Vogel practically performed non-contact exercises, which were also designed to teach newcomers Marc Gasol, Montrezl Harrell, Wesley Matthews and Dennis Schröder about the terminology and philosophies the Lakers. .
Even some of the players who had more offseason than the returning Lakers are still catching their wind. Matthews said a pinkie fracture he sustained in the second round of the playoffs with the Bucks took some extra time to heal this fall (he’s fine now, he added). And he already knows that the Lakers system will take a lot of effort.
“This is probably the most movement I’ve done in terms of distance, cutting and chopping and just getting back into the rhythm,” said the 34-year-old vet. “And almost comparable to the flow, the style I played in Portland, the style of play I played in Indianapolis, and for me it’s exciting.”
In addition to the difficulties of a shorter-than-normal low season, the personnel limitations are in the guidelines of the NBA. Vogel said the coaching staff did not have a normal list of employees and interns who could jump to the ground or assist with individual work, and the Lakers have not signed a comprehensive list of Exhibit 10 players (training camp contracts) that also help fill out the holes.
While the Lakers face Clippers nominally on Friday at Staples Center, the first game of the preseason probably won’t be many minutes for LeBron James or Anthony Davis, Vogel acknowledged. But that doesn’t mean those players didn’t have an early impact on the camp. Although James did not speak to the media after the training, Harrell said his influence was motivating for the newcomers.
“It’s not hard to play with one of the best players out there to play this game we have right now,” said Harrell. “He makes the game extremely easy for many of us on the floor. It is not difficult to just take over his leadership and just follow. ”
But the finer points, including lineups and plays, will be gradual. Harrell, who thinks he can mix with Davis and Gasol in the front court, said he isn’t thinking about the lineups just yet. Much of the emphasis is still on picking up the same terminology and finding a rhythm with new teammates.
While the Lakers have not indicated so far to have positive coronavirus test results (Cook’s late arrival is a result of a contract signing on Friday), the shadow of the pandemic hangs over the competition. Portland became the latest team to close its facility after three positive tests. The NBA has also threatened to penalize players who engage in risky behavior that violates protocols.
“We put a lot of emphasis here on playing by the rules, just for different reasons,” said Vogel.
Shaking off the rust has no definite timeline. When asked about a build-up to normal intensity, Vogel said he expected it to last “all year round,” but is most concerned about the initial stages due to the risk of injury.
It may not be about going fast on the track, but about outsmarting it. Matthews suggested stretching and handling will be a staple of the opening weeks, especially for veterans.
“A lot comes down to personal responsibility, getting what you need, making sure you get rest, making sure you are stretching yourself, doing all the little things to make sure you can be ready when it’s time to stretch. and that’s next week. ”
Matthews then came up with the timeline and then laughed, “Or maybe later this week. I do not know.”