It’s been a long time since the Los Angeles Lakers last played a game in front of their fans at Staples Center — 400 days to be exact — because of the global COVID-19 pandemic. Since then, they’ve played 43 homes games without their fans, including their first postseason game since 2013 and their first NBA Finals game since 2010.
The Lakers can’t go back in time and re-live those moments with their fans — if they could, they almost certainly would — but they can try and make more memorable moments for them starting on Thursday, when approximately 2,000 lucky fans will be allowed at Staples Center for the first time since March 10, 2020.
The roughly 2,000 fans that will be in attendance for the Lakers’ game against the Boston Celtics on Thursday isn’t anywhere near the number of fans that the Lakers are used to for their historic rivalry game — it’s not even 25% of Staples Center’s maximum capacity — but for now, it’s more than enough for the team.
“I can’t wait,” Frank Vogel said after Tuesday’s game in Charlotte. “Oh man, I can’t wait. The mystique of being in that building with our great fans is a big part of why it’s so cool to be a Laker and it’s just been absent this year, and it’s been missed, and we’re excited to have our fans back for sure.”
Vogel admitted that he’s looking forward to seeing Staples Center at full capacity again, but he anticipates that even a few thousand fans will be enough to get his team energized, and he’s not only one that thinks so. Kyle Kuzma, who’s played a handful of games in front of away fans this season, thinks that Staples Center will be plenty lively when the ball is tipped off of Thursday.
“It’s like a sellout, for real for real, I ain’t gonna lie to you,” Kuzma said. “You know, having fans, 2,000, 3,000, after playing in a bubble, which was as some of you guys know, it was more of a production stage, and then playing in empty arenas for the majority of the year, to have 2,000 fans ... It just feels good to play in front of people ... It’s good. It’s a huge part of the game.”
To the few lucky fans that will be in attendance on Thursday, make 2,000 feel like 20,000 — if not for us, then for the reigning champions. Oh, and boo the Celtics.
The Lakers and Celtics will tip-off at 7 p.m. PT and the game will be broadcast on TNT.
Notes and updates
- LeBron James (right ankle sprain), Anthony Davis (right calf strain) and Jared Dudley (right MCL tear) remain out for the Lakers.
- Andre Drummond (right big toe contusion), Marc Gasol (left hamstring soreness), Kyle Kuzma (left calf strain), Wesley Matthews (right Achilles tendon tightness) and Dennis Schröder (pelvis contusion) are probable.