The Los Angeles Lakers are the second-most valuable team in the NBA, behind only the New York Knicks. While thanks to the salary cap the Lakers can’t use that extra cash to just buy all of the best players in the league, there are still ways they can flex their financial muscles.
Outside of players, NBA teams aren’t limited in what they can spend on employees or other resources, and it appears the Lakers might be starting to throw their weight around in this regard.
Lakers head athletic trainer Marco Nunez sat down with Mike Trudell of Lakers.com for a wide-ranging discussion on his job and goals for the coming season, and he shared two main ways he wants to improve the Lakers infrastructure.
For one, Nunez said the Lakers are considering bringing on a full-time nutritionist, something he says the team has never had in the past (although they have used consultants):
“We’re trying to decide whether we should make that position full time. I don’t know if that position would travel full time or not, but having them right there at the practice facility where guys can ask questions, and our chef, Sandra, can work with them closely and try to see what we can create for the players could really help.”
With the NBA’s increased focus on helping players stay healthy and growing understanding of how to do so, diet and sleep patterns of players seem to be something that is increasingly emphasized league-wide. The Lakers are a young team that’s likely used to being able to eat whatever they want whenever they want, and a nutritionist could presumably help players like Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball and the rest of the Lakers’ young core develop the right habits early to extend their careers later.
The other way NBA teams can help players extend their careers is by protecting them from major injuries. While freak accidents in such a high-speed sport will never be fully preventable, advancing technology has given teams more insight into injury prevention than ever before.
According to Nunez, the Lakers are trying to figure out which type of tech they like best to help reduce general wear and tear:
“We’re looking at different companies right now. There’s one company we tried out at summer league, keeping track of guys exertion levels, exhaustion levels, sleeping patterns and stuff like that. Everything is going towards technological (advancement), so we’re looking at a company that’s more of an app. These players will go right on their phones the minute a game is over. So the app would ask some simple questions that gives us feedback about how the players are feeling and where they’re at from that perspective. The other thing we’re doing focuses on hydration. In the past, it’s always been, ‘Make sure you’re drinking plenty of water and getting plenty of electrolytes.’ Traditionally there’s the, ‘Hey when you use the restroom, check your urine color, and if it’s dark red or orange, it means you’re dehydrated. If it’s a light color, you’re good’, but we can go deeper than that. I know we’re working with GSSI, Gatorade Sports Science Institute; they came last year and tested most of our guys as far as sweat analysis and to try and create a hydration program for the guys. We’re testing that out in summer league to see how it works. Whether it’s advising how much water and electrolytes to drink six hours before a game, how much during a game and more importantly, after a game this is specifically how much water and Gatorade a specific player needs to consume. Especially on the road and for back to backs. We have to really focus on how our guys are recovering.”
Players being able to help trainers monitor their level of fatigue via an app on their phone sounds incredibly convenient, as does building specific hydration habits so the whole roster knows exactly how much water they need to be consuming in order to stay hydrated.
The Lakers are opening up a new training facility with all kinds of advanced health resources, and it sounds like they aren’t stopping there in their quest to keep their players as healthy as possible. Trudell’s whole chat with Nunez is worth a read for all the details, but the biggest takeaway is that the Lakers appear to be doing their best to build the best organization possible from the ground up.
Harrison Faigen is co-host of the Locked on Lakers podcast (subscribe here), and you can follow him on Twitter at @hmfaigen.