Lakers coach Frank Vogel prepares for return of season, if there is one
Lakers coach Frank Vogel isn’t sure when the NBA season will resume or what it will look like once it does, but he has tried to keep his coaches ready for the possibility.
They’ve been given projects to complete during this hiatus, tasks that presume the NBA’s regular season is over. Each of them has been assigned film of the seven other Western Conference playoff teams to review in case they are postseason opponents.
“I took some time off immediately when [the league suspended play],” Vogel said. “I knew it was going to be a long haul and I wanted to decompress a bit. But that lasted a day or two. I began to watch some of our recent games and take notes on the way we were progressing so that we can make sure we can pick up where we left off whenever we are able to resume.”
There has been no group basketball activity since March 11, when the NBA suspended its season upon learning that Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert tested positive for COVID-19. On Thursday evening, Vogel spoke with reporters for the first time since practice earlier that day. He shared his experience since then and how the team is handling the break.
“It’s a very different time than anything most of us have ever experienced in our lives,” Vogel said. “It’s just a time really to make sure that all of our loved ones are in good health and being safe. Making sure we can have in mind to be socially responsible and make sure we’re doing that, and enjoying my time with my family.”
While the league was still operating, general manager Rob Pelinka tried to keep players and coaches as informed as he could about where things stood. The NBA’s board of governors held a conference call March 11, when they discussed possibly playing game without fans, or a temporary suspension. The Lakers practiced that day, expecting to play the Houston Rockets on March 12.
Then Gobert tested positive and the season stopped.
“It was a little bit of a surprise to all of us that it was actually happening,” Vogel said.
After his brief attempt at disconnecting, Vogel got back to basketball. He watched the archived games that sports networks were showing.
“I’ve seen Danny Green play against LeBron in the Finals,” Vogel said. “I’ve seen Jason Kidd play against LeBron in the Finals. I’ve seen my Kentucky Wildcats play against the Arizona Wildcats in the championship game. I’ve seen LeBron’s McDonald’s All-American game.”
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He started rewatching his team’s games to see what he might have missed during the hectic season that had just halted.
On March 17, one week after playing the Lakers, the Brooklyn Nets announced four players had tested positive for COVID-19. The Lakers immediately renewed an offer they had made before to players for COVID-19 testing. On March 18, 14 players arrived at the team facility to have swabs inserted into their noses while they sat in their cars to test for the virus.
Two of them tested positive but none of them had symptoms.
There were people close to Vogel who worried about his exposure.
“We were not told to be tested,” Vogel said about himself and the rest of his staff. “And obviously everybody recognized the shortage of tests and we were only going to do what the local health department told us to do. … So I reassured my family that I was in good health and obviously, while I had been around those guys, there had been some social distancing guidelines in place so I felt fine and I also felt confident that a test wasn’t needed for me personally.”
The Lakers have started conducting voluntary workouts through video conferencing. JaVale McGee posted on Instagram a screenshot that showed Jared Dudley, Quinn Cook, Alex Caruso, Talen Horton-Tucker and two-way players Kostas Antetokounmpo and Devontae Cacok participating in a workout run by Lakers strength coach Gunnar Peterson.
Vogel had conference calls with team leaders Anthony Davis and LeBron James, along with Pelinka, but mostly tried to give his team space.
The space he has from them is now filled with something he rarely gets during this time of year — family time with his wife and two daughters. Vogel and his wife are doing workouts together each day. His daughters have soccer and lacrosse workouts to participate in through Zoom. They’ve finished the Netflix series “Stranger Things” and “All-American,” as well as several movies.
“We’re cooking together every night,” Vogel said. “We made pizza last week. Homemade pizza. Just trying to have as much fun as we can and enjoy the silver lining in this, which is the family time.”
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