The Los Angeles Lakers haven’t played a competitive, five-on-five game of basketball in almost two months, and neither have the other 29 teams in the NBA. Once the league gets the green light to resume play, its players will need a few weeks to get back into game shape — they’ll need even longer to get into postseason shape.
The Lakers looked like they were hitting their stride right before the season was suspended — specifically LeBron James, who averaged 30 points, 9.4 assists, 8.2 rebounds, 0.9 steals and 0.9 blocks per game in the 10 games the Lakers played after the All-Star break. Now, James, the Lakers, and the rest of the league will have to have to restart at square one.
But while the Lakers will be on equal footing with the rest of the league in terms of conditioning, Alex Caruso told Allie Cliffton of Spectrum SportsNet that he thinks they’ll have an advantage when it comes to the mental aspect of the game:
“In my opinion, we were getting ready to turn a corner and ramp it up to get ready for playoffs, and to finish out the year strong. We’re going to do our best to come back and get to that level as quickly as possible. It’s probably not going to be a day one, just step right back out and get to that point of 60 games into an NBA season, or however many we had. But we’re going to do our best, and I think we have the type of team that, mentally, we’re going to able to that point even if we can’t get there physically right away.”
The “type of team” that the Lakers are is a veteran team, which is why Caruso is so confident that they’ll be able to get back to where they were before the season was suspended:
“Ready. I think that’s the word. We’ve got pros, I think the young guys on our team, including me, are aged beyond our years as far as work ethic and mental preparation. I think everybody’s just going to be ready. When you know the goal’s in sight, and you know it’s attainable, and you’ve got leaders like LeBron, AD, Dwight, JaVale, Rondo — guys like that who’ve been around and have great work ethic, I think the only word I can think of is ‘ready.’”
The opposite side to that coin is the physical side, and the Lakers could take a little bit longer than other teams to get back into their rhythm because of their age. Granted, they have a few younger players in their rotation like Anthony Davis (27), Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (26), Kyle Kuzma (24) and Caruso (25), but they also have veterans that play big minutes like Rajon Rondo (33), Dwight Howard (34) and James (35).
As important as it will be for them to be mentally prepared, it’s just as important for them to be physically prepared, especially when the team they’re expected to play in the first round of the NBA Playoffs — the Memphis Grizzlies — is a young team with fresh legs. If they can take care of that, there’s no reason to believe they won’t be one of the last teams standing in the postseason.