On Friday night, the Los Angeles Lakers played their 38th game since the regular season began.
On Saturday afternoon, they will have their 11th practice over that same timeframe.
Unlike Allen Iverson, the Lakers have been happy to spend some time talkin’ ‘bout practice this season, from the drawbacks of how little they get to do so to the way it’s forced them to treat games like glorified preseason exhibitions to work on their sets.
But on Friday, head coach Frank Vogel faced a simpler query: In a vacuum, and with all things being equal, does he wish his team could practice more?
“I definitely do,” Vogel said.
There are several practical reasons why the Lakers — and every other team in the league — haven’t been able to do so very much, however. With the condensed schedule as the NBA tries to get is calendar back on track, there simply isn’t as much time between games to schedule practice sessions. The Lakers are likely only practicing on Saturday because they don’t have a game on Sunday and can thus use that day to rest up for their Monday matchup with the Golden State Warriors. The rarity of practices league-wide is why Warriors coach Steve Kerr benched rookie James Wiseman for missing one earlier this week.
Some of the issues are related to the coronavirus pandemic, and the difficulty that even NBA teams face in gathering as the league tries to play through it. Everyone has to be tested in time for a practice, and the difficulty in doing so prior is why shootarounds have basically been a nonstarter for the Lakers — they’ve only had two this season. Even for a team that was well-known for how little they had shootarounds last season, that’s extreme. Practices take place later in the day and are easier to make work with the league’s testing regimen, but still not easy.
When you combine all that with how few days there are that are good practice days due to the almost non-stop game schedule and how mentally and physically exhausted the veteran Lakers have been as a result of their two-ish month turnaround to get back on the floor after winning the title — and that’s without accounting for all the injuries they’ve dealt with — it’s not that surprising they’ve barely been able to practice.
Still, Vogel says the team has seen drawbacks to their approach.
“I think the execution suffers when you can’t get reps in to work on your habits,” Vogel said. “I’ve felt that with our team, but it’s just the nature of what the whole league is going through right now.”
To make up for that — much like they did during their run to the title in the bubble — the Lakers have tried to take their film sessions where everyone gets a voice and apply them to the floor on the fly, but it’s not quite the same.
“We’ve got to do the best we can to mentally improve in the film room every day, but certainly I would welcome more opportunities to be on the floor with our guys,” Vogel said.
With a rare two days between games, Vogel will get that chance on Saturday afternoon. However, with only three more times where the team will have two days off in between the games they’ve been forced to treat as practices, don’t expect the Lakers to raise their overall practice tally a whole lot more the rest of the way.