The Lakers and the rest of the NBA can officially work out at their team facilities right now, but only for individual workouts with up to two assistant coaches. According to the NBA’s current schedule, players won’t be able to practice with their teammates until July 9.
Or, at least not officially. Because nearly ever since the NBA’s quarantine began, rumors have been circulating that Lakers star LeBron James has been making it possible for his team to get together and stay ready for their title chase.
Shams Charania of The Athletic reported that James was holding private workouts with 1-2 teammates at a time on a private court, while a month earlier Lakers guard Danny Green had said that James and Anthony Davis were making sure that their teammates had gym access. Coupled with the report that James and other Lakers had not been working out much at the Lakers’ facility since it reopened last month due to the restrictions in place, and it’s all at the very least... interesting.
Adding fuel to the rumor mill most recently were podcast host Bill Simmons and Pelicans guard JJ Redick, who revealed what they were hearing about the Lakers’ secret workouts on the latest episode of Simmons’ eponymous podcast:
Simmons: Have you heard, there’s this L.A. rumor right now and I haven’t been able to crack it, of all the Lakers are playing at some rich guy’s house. And it’s all like ‘nobody talk about this,’ but have you heard about different rumors, and what teams are doing, and all that? Are you expecting people to show up (to Orlando) out of shape? What do you think?
Redick: All right, so in regards to the Lakers, I’ve heard similar things. Obviously nothing has been posted on social media providing us with the evidence that we need, but there is a gentleman, I think his house is in Bel-Air, who has a Staples Center replica in his backyard. It’s a full court, locker rooms, weight rooms, steam shower, whatever you want. I’ve worked out there before. My assumption is those guys are working out there, that would make a lot of sense.
You can listen to just the above exchange here:
Bill Simmons and JJ Redick hint that the Lakers have been secretly scrimmaging throughout quarantine at a mansion in Bel-Air with a replica Staples Center court. pic.twitter.com/WCdSTaS1Wu— ³ (@33643pts) June 19, 2020
So there are a few things to address here. First of all, longtime NBA Twitter addicts will be well aware that the court that Redick mentions, as strange as it sounds, does actually exist. It’s owned by LA Gear CEO Steven Jackson — no, not the former NBA player, that’s Stephen Jackson — and does reportedly feature “a replica of the Staples Center” court, “complete with championship banners and a piece of the floor from the old Forum in Inglewood.”
That piece of the Forum court? It’s reportedly signed by Magic Johnson, Kobe Bryant and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and is so well-regarded that NBA teams have had shootarounds there. So, yeah, it sounds like exactly the type of place where it would be fun to have a secret, quarantine-breaking workout.
As to the believability of this rumor, it’s pretty plausible, despite the reality that most Lakers fans will dismiss Simmons as “just a Celtics fan/Laker hater.” There has been enough other smoke about this, and despite the fact that NBA players are not allowed to scrimmage outside of their team facilities right now, Marc Stein of the New York Times has reported that the league is unlikely to punish those who violated that rule. Players like, say, LeBron, who was recently photographed playing in one such pickup game:
And for what it’s worth, Alex Caruso has also been seen taking part in such scrimmages. Kyle Kuzma posted photos of himself at a party. So if some of the Lakers would take the health risk of breaking quarantine in groups publicly for open runs or at parties, is it believable that at least a few more of them would do the exact same thing as a team, to stay ready for their championship chase secretly, away from the cameras? You tell me.
Starting next Tuesday, players will be even more restricted from workouts outside of the team facility due to health protocols, so whatever Lakers sessions have been going on, it’s likely they’ll stop then. And whether this rumor is true or not, if the Lakers come out looking more ready than other NBA teams in Orlando, it’s safe to say that fans will always fondly remember the urban legend of the secret quarantine runs.