The Los Angeles Lakers haven’t played a game of basketball in over three months. By the time they return to action in Orlando, it will have been four months or, to be exact, 142 days. For context, there were 188 days between the last game of the 2018-19 season and the first preseason game of the 2019-20 season. The difference between the offseason and this hiatus, though, is timing.
During the offseason, players usually take a month for themselves to decompress before the season starts back up again in September. Since this season is only suspended and not canceled, players have had to stay in shape under unusually restrictive conditions. That remains true even though the NBA allowed teams to reopen their practice facilities last month.
The Lakers’ head strength and conditioning coach Gunnar Peterson sat down with Spectrum SportsNet to talk about where the players are in terms of their physical fitness, and explained why it’s important for all of them to get back on a basketball court as soon as possible:
“There’s physical shape, and then there’s conditioning, and then there’s basketball shape. And it’s hard to stay in basketball shape when you’re not playing basketball. That said, they’ve stayed in cardiovascular shape. They’ve stayed in strength shape, and they’ve worked on flexibility, but the basketball movements, the movement patterns, again, it’s hard to do that when you haven’t been able to do that. I mean yes, it’s like riding a bike, and once you get back on you still know how to ride a bike, you still know how to play basketball, but the movement patterns are different, the contact is different, and it’s hard to do that when you’re isolating.”
There was little doubt that a title-contending, veteran-heavy team like the Lakers was going to slack off during the hiatus. Even if there was concern, we know that several members of team participated in Zoom workouts led by Peterson before facilities opened. Once they get the green light to resume their normal basketball activities, they’ll be ready.
The real concern stems from the basketball movement and contact Peterson talks about, and how the players will respond to it after not playing for close to five months. Among the many risks involved with resuming the season in Orlando is the risk of injury, and while everyone is hoping for the best, we’d be remiss if we didn’t acknowledge the serious possibility.
Hopefully the Lakers can rely on their experience in their first few games so that they can take their time ramping up to postseason intensity.