While the Los Angeles Lakers and the rest of the NBA are in the midst of the unprecedented stoppage of play caused by the coronavirus, head coach Frank Vogel is trying to do as much as he can to make sure his team doesn’t lose its momentum.
Vogel has admitted he hopes that the league finds a way to give its teams some regular season games to find their stride again rather than jumping immediately to the postseason, but also seems to be preparing for either scenario. He’s even put his team’s video coordinators to work looking at what the Lakers did well (and not so well) before play stopped so that he and his coaching staff can make any ensuing adjustments they need to when (and if) the season returns.
What Vogel can’t know for sure is the same thing that no one is certain of: How will this long of a stoppage in the middle of the season affect everyone’s level of play? He doesn’t know the answer, but he’s trying to remain optimistic that his team will be able to rediscover its previously dominant footing (via Mike Trudell of Lakers.com):
“Well that’s the great unknown,” Vogel acknowledged. “No one’s ever been in this situation before where in the middle of the season you take a hiatus this long. My hope is that we will return to form when we’re able to resume. I think the buildup is going to be critical that we do it at the right pace if we’re able to get a camp. We build our guys back up at the right pace so guys are getting back in shape without getting injured and that we ultimately get to the games in fully good health.
“(But) just watching the tapes … we had a really good team. Have a really good team. Hopefully all the habits that we built throughout the course of the season won’t be too far away from us resuming those.”
Vogel isn’t wrong about how good the Lakers are/were. At 49-14, the Lakers had the best record in the Western Conference and second-best record in the league when the season came to a halt. Using the habits they had been building that Vogel referenced, they had just beaten the Milwaukee Bucks and LA Clippers right before play stopped, showing tremendous progress in two victories over the teams that will likely be their biggest competition for the NBA title if the season continues.
Will they be able to get back to those things? There is reason to be somewhat optimistic. The Lakers may have a more veteran team that might take a little extra time to hit their stride physically than some of the younger, springier teams in the league whenever the season resumes, but the good news is their success wasn’t necessarily predicated upon exemplary displays of athleticism.
Between LeBron James, Anthony Davis and others the Lakers have good athletes, sure, but James at this point is mostly picking teams apart with his superhuman mind, Davis is young enough that him bouncing back seems like a certainty, and the Lakers’ success this year was mostly on the back of their defensive tenacity and togetherness, something that may be even more able to muck up other team’s approaches if they’re also a bit rusty.
There is also the reality that this Lakers team is as close to each other and as motivated as any roster in the league in recent memory. Their chemistry has been a center of controversy this season when discussing if it was important enough to resist the temptation to overhaul the team at the trade deadline, but it’s also almost impossible to dispute that this team enjoys playing for each other, and that said quality has given them a boost and helped them hold each other accountable throughout the year. If their past approach is any indicator, these Lakers are going to be doing everything they can to stay as ready as possible so they don’t let each other down.
Will all that ultimately come to pass if the season even resumes? There is no way to know for sure, but Vogel is right to try and be optimistic. Nothing is guaranteed in a year as strange as this one, but if the NBA does come back, it seems safe to guess that this Lakers team will still be on a mission for each other. We’ll see if that’s ultimately enough, but it certainly can’t hurt.