Any discussion of if and when to restart this NBA season naturally starts with public safety; mitigating the spread of the coronavirus is the top priority for all sports leagues.
A secondary concern is how long it will take to get players back into game shape once basketball activities resume. There’s a reason that the NBA has a preseason at the start of its league calendar — it takes some time for athletes to get to their peak performance. The level of play at the start of the regular season even pales in comparison to how teams look later on in the year.
Right now, time is a luxury the NBA simply doesn’t have. As a result, players and teams are doing their best to maintain game shape during the league stoppage, which is a tricky task given that they aren’t allowed to practice and work out together. Kyle Goon of the Orange County Register detailed the plans the Lakers have put in place to keep their players fit.
Gunnar Peterson, the team’s director of strength and conditioning, is responsible for helping players tackle these challenges. Along with staffers Ed Streit and Chattin Hill, he has assembled and shipped equipment “kits” with some workout essentials: adjustable dumbbells, weighted bands, floor sliders and – of course – basketballs.
They also send out daily workouts via text and e-mail, position-specific drills and concepts to keep the players in the best possible shape they can maintain during the quarantine. If a player needs clarification or additional direction, they send videos of themselves doing drills, too.
The Lakers have to get creative when it comes to developing workouts. Even with the starter kits the training staff has sent to all of the players, they don’t have the same set of equipment available that they would at the team’s practice facility. Furthermore, as most people can attest, working out in isolation is a far different experience than having 14 other players around. That’s another challenge Peterson and his staff are working to address.
“Motivation comes from within, and these guys are motivated, they’re just counting on us to eliminate as much gray area as possible and make things efficient,” he said. “Yes, it’s unprecedented as to what’s causing this. But instead of saying, ‘Oh my God, it’s unfamiliar,’ we’re saying, ‘It’s not ideal, but we’re making it work.’”
The workouts rely heavily on fundamentals: weighted lifts and lunges, core and ab routines, and other things to keep up strength. Peterson said the strength and conditioning staff has drawn inspiration from military workouts and bodyweight exercises to create routines.
If the season does resume at some point, most players still think it would take a couple weeks to get back up to speed, and Jared Dudley said it would take at least a month. It’s unlikely the NBA will have that much time to spare, so the Lakers need to make sure the measures they are taking keep them ready for whenever basketball returns.