The NBA G League announced on Friday that it will officially attempt to play its season in a bubble at Disney World in Orlando, Florida, with 18 teams set to participate. As was previously reported by Dave McMenamin of ESPN, however, the South Bay Lakers will not be going.
The Lakers’ G League affiliate announced that they would be opting out of the season in a statement on Friday:
While we appreciate the G League’s efforts in putting together this model to accommodate all member teams, we have determined this is the best course of action for the Lakers organization.
We look forward to our eventual return to G League basketball. In the meantime, we will continue to assign opportunities to our staff as they become available.
We encourage you to visit sblakers.com and our South Bay Lakers social channels for the latest news, updates and interactive features to stay connected to the game, along with guidelines on how to keep yourself and your family safe and healthy.
Thank you for your loyalty and patience during these unprecedented times. We are grateful for your understanding and for being the best fans in sports.
There are a couple things that stand out here. For one, the note that “we have determined this is the best course of action for the Lakers organization” can be taken a lot of ways. My read of it, though, is the same as it was when McMenamin’s initial report came out, and it comes down to the Lakers appearing to determine that they’d rather have their two-way players with them than off in a bubble:
In normal seasons, two-way players can only spend 45 days with their parent team in the NBA, but this year the NBA lifted those restrictions, and changed the rules so that such players can instead only be active for 50 games, but otherwise theoretically spend all their time with the parent team. They will reportedly be paid a flat rate of $449,155, instead of having their paychecks determined by their days of NBA service.
With no limits on how much their two-way players can be around — and those players costing the same amount either way — the Lakers may have determined that there is no point in paying $500,000 to participate in the G League bubble when they can develop their main prospects on their roster in games and in practice, especially with the NBA announcing today that active gameday rosters have expanded from 13 players to 15 this season in order to give teams more reinforcements.
Another part of the announcement that stuck out to me was the team saying that “in the meantime, we will continue to assign opportunities to our staff as they become available.” That is notable because the Lakers have to this point, according to Kyle Goon of the O.C. Register, been continuing to pay their South Bay coaching staff, despite the lack of games:
South Bay will not be joining the G League bubble in February. South Bay coach Coby Karl told me in December that the Lakers had kept him and his assistants on payroll even though their contracts were technically up this summer. I’m not sure what happens now. pic.twitter.com/YhCMNcILhV— Kyle Goon (@kylegoon) January 8, 2021
As Kyle points out, we don’t know for sure that the Lakers will continue to do so, but them doing so thus far and saying in their statement that they will try to give them assignments at least strongly implies that some of them may not be out of work. Considering that the Lakers are worth billions of dollars and that G League coaches don’t make very much money at all, keeping them around and finding stuff for them to do — even remotely — would seem to be the right thing to do on a human level, especially for an organization that so publicly prides itself on being a family.
We will continue to monitor what happens on all these fronts with South Bay, but for now, it appears there won’t be a team of prospects on the court this season, so all of us watching their games looking for the next Andre Ingram, David Nwaba and more will have to just keep a closer eye on Talen Horton-Tucker and two-way players Kostas Antetokounmpo and Devontae Cacok as the Lakers’ continue to look for back-end contributors on the fringes. For one year at least, this scouting department have a few less roster spots to find and develop them.