LOS ANGELES -- There were multiple points in this elongated season when the Los Angeles Lakers thought that they had been through something no team ever experienced and that surely nothing could test them any further. At each of those points, they were wrong.
It has been a season filled with unexpected, sometimes devastating interruptions. They began the season in China, where they became pawns in a geopolitical staredown over Hong Kong demonstrations. In January, as they built momentum toward a championship bid, franchise legend Kobe Bryant died in a helicopter crash.
"It's kind of been like a roller coaster in a cave," veteran guard Danny Green said. "That you don't know where it's going to end or how it's going to end or where you're going to."
The Lakers will travel to Florida his week for the resumption of the coronavirus-suspended NBA season, which will be played at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at Disney World. They will stay in the Gran Destino Tower of the Coronado Springs Resort, which will be closed to the general public, with a goal of emerging from this bizarre situation as the victors. Tuesday concluded a week of mandatory individual workouts that the team used as a way to sharpen their players in advance of their return to action. The warmup is over.
"I feel like it's a brand new season," third-year forward Kyle Kuzma said. "I just feel like you know, zero-zero, no wins, no losses. Some players are shutting down and have to regain their bodies. It's interesting like my fourth year. I kinda look at it like that."
July 1 was the first day teams were allowed to require workouts of their players. The league only allowed individual workouts under strict protocols to protect participants' health and safety. With potential injuries to consider, Lakers coach Frank Vogel also wanted to ease his players back into the habit of workouts.
"Our coaches have been pushing these guys, not overdoing, but pushing their conditioning, getting a lot of shots up, getting their reps back to where they were throughout the season," Vogel said. "And all the work that they're doing throughout the week strengthens our ability to hit the ground running when we begin next week."
Vogel has avoided giving his players extra off-the-court work. He hasn't assigned film study or overloaded them with meetings. With more than a month to go before the playoffs begin, he figures there will be plenty of time for that.
He has wanted to leave this time for them to be with their families, as he has done himself.
"Just hugging my wife, hugging my kids constantly throughout the house and trying to do some fun things," Vogel said. "It's obviously a little bit difficult right now with things beginning to close down again, obviously with the beaches and restaurants and whatnot, so it's been doing a lot more of what we've done the last X amount of months while we've been in these stay-at-home orders."
Vogel has said the part of the restart nobody likes is spending so much time away from their families. Despite an imperfect scenario, the Lakers are grateful they will have a chance to finish the journey they began more than one calendar year ago. They firmly believed they had a chance to win a championship when their team was built, and that belief hasn't changed.
"I'd rather be playing here, with the fans, but I think we're just all excited to be playing again," Green said. "Doesn't matter where. Obviously the bubble has rules, the things we've seen and read obviously aren't the most exciting thing to be looking forward to, but to this point I think we're ready.
"If you're not ready I don't know what to tell you. At this point we're as ready as we're possibly ever going to be in that type of atmosphere."
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