Nearly every day it starts to seem more likely that the Lakers will get to resume their season and finish their quest to put a 17th NBA Championship trophy in the window of Jeanie Buss’ office.
On Tuesday morning, NBPA executive director Michele Roberts said that the “overwhelming” majority of players want to finish the NBA season. This came on the heels of news over the course of Memorial Day weekend that the league had officially entered into negotiations with Disney to execute their long-rumored plan to resume the 2019-20 campaign at the Disney World resorts in Orlando, Florida.
On the “Daddy Issues with Joe Buck and Oliver Hudson” podcast, Buss — the Lakers’ team governor — was asked if she was “still pretty certain that at some point there is basketball in 2020.” Buss wasn’t willing to say it was a certainty just yet, but she did admit that the league is trying to make a return happen as long as it can be done safely, while also giving some insight into how she views the Lakers as an organization, and this shutdown in the context of that:
“You know, until we have it all figured out I can’t definitively say yes or no. But is that (a return) what we’re working towards? Yes. We’re working really hard in trying to get all the pieces to fit together so that everybody feels safe and confident, whether it’s playing games without fans, with fans with face masks. I’m not an expert and so I’m not going to speculate on what it’s going to look like step-by-step.
“A lot of my philosophical [views] around a basketball team, or any sports team, is that it has to feel like a family unit. And I learned that from Phil Jackson. Watching ‘The Last Dance,’ that becomes top of the mind, and watching how he brought that team together, the idea that I’m the head of an organization and that our players, we feel so disconnected because not all the players that play for the Lakers live in Los Angeles, and so now we’re kind of spread out, so the practice facility and the office becomes like the center hub.
“When we had to shut down and lose that connection, it’s traumatic for a team, because they didn’t get to say goodbye to each other or finish their season. It’s healing their hearts to try to bring them all back together.”
It’s worth noting that Buss made these comments before Roberts spoke on Tuesday morning, and before the league’s official announcement that it was negotiating with Disney, but they’re still notable for a few reasons.
For one, these words demonstrate that as much motivation as the Lakers have to finish the season — from LeBron James likely only having so many more seasons left at this level of play to Anthony Davis’ impending free agency, all their reasons to want to resume things are obvious — Buss clearly does not want to jeopardize player safety to do so, which is admirable when there is this much money on the line (and when judging it against the tenor of some other team governors’ comments).
Her words also show just how much the Lakers feeling like a family clearly matters to her, and that — just like for many of us separated from our co-workers, friends and family every day during this pandemic — it’s sucked for the organization to be apart from the people they’ve formed connections with.
The question here, though, in the face of Buss’ comments, is simple: Just how safely can the NBA actually resume? Isolating players and staffers in Disney World while testing them frequently seems like the start of a sound plan, but if Jared Dudley’s comments about the bubble not exactly being a bubble are accurate, there are still a lot of things to be sorted out before we can look at the NBA’s blueprint for resumption of the season and call it safe. As Buss said, the league is still working on that, and judging by how quickly things are moving now, we’ll probably know a lot more about what any prospective return will look like in the weeks to come.