Lakers like the Orlando version of Staples Center: ‘It is pretty dope’

Anthony Davis #3 of the Los Angeles Lakers and LeBron James.
Lakers teammates LeBron James, left, and Anthony Davis got a sneak peak at some of the new features that will be on display in the arena where they’ll be playing games in Orlando.
(Chris Graythen / Getty Images)

Before the Lakers started practice Saturday on Disney’s ESPN Wide World of Sports campus, LeBron James and Anthony Davis got a peek at the arena where they would be playing games.

They saw the video screens surrounding the court, where it’s possible virtual fans will be shown during a game. They saw the bench area where seats will be spaced apart, nothing like the knee-to-knee setup on a normal NBA bench. The court reads Black Lives Matter just in front of a plexiglass box that encloses the scorer’s table.

“I think it’s pretty cool how they’ll have the big monitors, where you can have your family, friends, fans, whoever, kind of be in the arena,” Davis said. “I think that’s a pretty dope idea. I know they’re still trying to figure out some things as far as lighting and sound and stuff. But I think the whole concept of it is pretty dope.”

The Lakers are a little more than a week away from their first game and will begin scrimmaging this week. They’ll have a chance to see where they are in their quest to tune up for the playoffs. They’ll find out how their new pieces are meshing. And they’ll experience something no basketball player before them has experienced.

On Monday they became a little more whole as Markieff Morris traveled to Orlando to rejoin the team, arriving in the evening.


“First, we gotta get him in and cleared,” Lakers coach Frank Vogel said Tuesday afternoon. “That’s the biggest thing. And Markieff Morris has cleared the protocol in L.A. … So it will be a couple days before he arrives that we’ll be able to see him on the court.”

The Lakers have not disclosed why Morris was delayed in rejoining his team. His twin, Marcus, was at practice with the Clippers on Tuesday — the first practice the Clippers had open to reporters since arriving in the bubble. Marcus Morris did not travel with the team on July 8 and was not confirmed to be on campus in Orlando until Tuesday.

Players who arrive late to the bubble must test negative for COVID-19 in the seven days prior to their arrival with tests occurring every other day and in the two days immediately prior to the trip. If they fly privately or drive, they must pass two PCR tests for COVID-19 at least 24 hours apart and one rapid test.

“And then obviously we’re gonna be smart about building him up at the right pace,” Vogel said of Markieff. “We don’t want him to be injured. He’s obviously been out and not been with the team for a while, so we’ll just take it day by day and be intelligent with it.”

They’d been taking a similar view with their new additions who did fly with them to Orlando — J.R. Smith and Dion Waiters.

At one point during the prepractice stretches, Waiters stood in one corner of the convention center ballroom that had become their practice court and danced, sang and rapped along to the music accompanying their movements. On the other corner of the room, Smith sat near James as James got stretched by his longtime trainer Mike Mancias.

“I think we’re pretty close,” Davis said, when asked how far the team is from where it wants to be when games begin to count. “There’s still some things that we want to work on. We were one of the worst teams in transition [defensively], so we’ve been going over that a ton, watching film on that a ton. But I think everybody came back in shape. You could tell guys have been working during the break. Now it’s all about putting it all back together.”

LeBron James talks to reporters mostly about non-basketball topics, including missing his mother and the loss of civil rights pioneer John Lewis.

Their routines are getting a little bit more familiar. While some teams arrange a film study area on their practice courts, the Lakers typically watch film in their meeting rooms to have some separation.

They’ll be allowed, too, to watch games of other teams in person if they’d like. There are some socially distanced seats available for players to watch. Vogel doesn’t plan to encourage or discourage players from doing that. He leaves that up to them.

It could help remove the element of the unknown to some degree.

“Possibly, just to see the setup, check it out, depending,” Danny Green said when asked if he’d attend other teams’ games. “… Obviously, we can watch the games on TV or online if we need to. Some guys like the in-game, up-close experience, but I think most of us will take advantage of resting and taking care of our bodies at home.”