LOS ANGELES — The Lakers will not be among the first wave of NBA teams that reopen their facilities for individual workouts on May 8, Frank Vogel said, but L.A.’s head coach is just fine with that.
“There’s a competitive balance element to this that I personally am not really all that concerned about,” Vogel said on a video conference call with reporters on Wednesday. “I think we’re still a long way away from returning to play.”
The Lakers contacted the Los Angeles mayor’s office to inquire about the viability of having players use their practice facility before the current shelter-at-home order for L.A. residents expires on May 15, sources told ESPN.
Vogel did not offer up a firm date when the team planned to have its players return to the UCLA Health Training Center in El Segundo.
“There’s a handful of teams around the league that are going to be back on the eighth. Most of them will not,” he said. “We’ll continue to see how things progress next week.”
Lakers officials are hopeful that when L.A.’s stay-at-home mandate is lifted the team will be able to reopen the facility in accordance with league guidelines presented to all 30 teams in a memo in late April, sources told ESPN. The Lakers are continuing to communicate with local government officials on the matter.
Los Angeles County announced Wednesday that a limited number of businesses — including florists, toy stores, book stores, clothing stores, music stores, sporting goods stores, car dealerships and golf courses — will be able to open Friday with safety measures in place.
The NBA’s hiatus in response to the coronavirus pandemic will reach the two-month mark next week.
While Vogel cautioned that significantly more time will likely pass before the league can figure out a way to play games again to conclude the 2019-20 season, he remains “optimistic” that a resolution will indeed occur.
If the man roaming the sidelines for the Western Conference’s No. 1 team has his way, the season will not start back up in the playoffs immediately.
“I think we need some games,” Vogel said. “I don’t know if they’d have to be regular-season games, in terms of finishing the season. Maybe they’re exhibition games, you know what I mean, that you treat as sort of your dress rehearsal or whatever.
“I think for the health of the league and for the health of everyone involved, the more we can get in for our league and our fans, the better. So I think if there’s a way to get regular-season games in, that would be great, but safety’s going to be the top priority. But the biggest thing for me is that there’s got to be at least some exhibition games, which I think there would be.”
Just like the coach would like some tune-up games before the playoffs, he is mindful of not giving his players a full workload when practices resume.
“I think we have to find that balance of pushing their conditioning without breaking down their bodies,” Vogel said. “And it’s a great unknown when you have players that have been unable to be on the basketball court for this long. No one has ever really been around this type of situation, so I think we’re all going to put our heads together, rely heavily on the guidance of our sports performance team, the common sense of our coaching staff and try to build them up at the right pace and try to find that balance.”
The Lakers were 49-14 when the league shut down, with 19 regular-season games remaining on the schedule. They clinched a playoff berth, setting up their first postseason appearance as a franchise since 2013.
Vogel said that in between binge-watching TV services — “I’ve finished Netflix and Amazon Prime and Hulu, and now I’m starting Disney+,” he cracked — and scoping out “The Last Dance” docuseries on Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls on Sunday nights on ESPN, he has reviewed Lakers games from this season and has liked what he has seen.
“Just watching the tapes, we had a really good team,” Vogel said. “Have a really good team. Hopefully, all the habits that we built throughout the course of the season won’t be too far away from us resuming those.”