Die-hard fans who follow the Lakers extremely closely, eager to hear about everything this team says and does, may have noticed that they do not have shootarounds a whole lot this season.
Invented by legendary Lakers coach Bill Sharman, the shootaround gained popularity in the NBA in 1972, after the Lakers won a title and cited the morning shooting session on game days — developed by Sharman during his playing days as “a way to burn off nervous energy on game days” that he brought with him to his coaching career — as one of the keys to their success. Typically, most NBA teams do them almost every day they have a game, but the Lakers have flouted that norm this year.
By going back through the updates the team sends to the media letting us know when players will be available — including yesterday’s “home” game against the LA Clippers — and counting the number of times they said there would be no shootaround, the Lakers have skipped those morning warm-up sessions for at least 14 of their 32 home games this season. They have also cancelled a significant number of them on the road as well, although I am not privy to exactly how many of them because I do not travel with the team.
Theories have abounded about the reason for this scheduling quirk, with one being that the veteran team just wants to save its legs as much as possible. Earlier this year, Joe Vardon of The Athletic posited a different hypothesis, essentially saying that the team was doing something in the mornings before games, but just not calling it a shootaround so that they could avoid talking to the media:
I’ll cut to the chase. You’re hearing less from your favorite NBA players than normal this season, and the disappearance of the “shootaround” is a reason. Except, the shootaround really hasn’t gone away. Teams, like the Lakers, are still holding meetings and walk-throughs and working out injured players the mornings of games, they just aren’t inviting the media. They get away with it by not calling whatever it is that they’re doing a “shootaround.” Not every team is doing this — the Celtics, for instance, had a lengthy shootaround and media session afterward Monday morning — but the Lakers appear to be one. Over and over, the team announces it is not holding a shootaround (or even a practice on an off day), and then their players contradict them by referencing the workouts after the fact.
You can read more on what he feels like the significance of that is for fans in the link above, but a few months later, Vardon has provided an update on this little storyline in his latest dispatch from the NBA Bubble in Orlando. It turns out that the Lakers really do appear to not be having shootarounds, and the reason why actually makes quite a bit of sense:
The Lakers, though, are averse to not only practicing, but shooting around on game days. They do have players who go to the gym to get up shots, but it’s voluntary and LeBron often isn’t there. I’ve gone so far as to say this whole situation, them having players gather in the mornings, but not call it a “shootaround,” is done to skirt rules about media access. The Lakers do not agree.
“LeBron James doesn’t want to do it (shootaround), Anthony Davis doesn’t want to do it. They kick ass when we don’t do it, so that’s it,” said someone who would know.
Well, when you put it like that... this actually really lines up. Lakers head coach Frank Vogel has talked all season about how he’s consulted with his two stars on coaching and scheduling decisions, and — reading between the lines — if he’s allowing them to opt to make shootarounds voluntary as long as they continue to “kick ass,” that would actually seem to be a solid motivating tactic for a team full of veterans with families that surely don’t want to rise early to head over to the gym on game days if they can skip it.
And while there might be some slight physical drawbacks for that — as well as less important consequences for fans and media — it’s clearly working for the Lakers, so it’s kind of hard to argue with the results (and by extension, the process with which they’ve been obtained). This would instead just seem to be another good example of the symbiotic dynamic between the Lakers’ front office, coaching staff and roster, and one more factor in the Lakers becoming such a tight-knit group that trusts and believes in each other so quickly this year.