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Lakers GM: All players on team will be vaccinated by the start of season

The Lakers and Celtics play at Staples Center on April 15.
(Myung Chun / Los Angeles Times)

The Lakers will have a fully vaccinated team by the time the team opens its season on Oct. 19 against the Golden State Warriors at Staples Center.

Team general manager Rob Pelinka made the announcement during a news conference less than a week before the team begins training camp.

“All of the players that are currently signed on our roster, on that night, will be deemed fully vaccinated,” Pelinka said. “We’re really grateful for that. I think in collaboration with UCLA and the doctors and people internally, we will be grateful that we won’t have interruptions caused by the vaccinated status of a player or a staff member.”

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Lakers vice president of basketball operations and general manager Rob Pelinka has noticed how LeBron James has ‘slimmed up’ during the offseason.

Players are considered fully vaccinated 14 days after their final dose of an authorized vaccine. NBA coaches, team staff, game operators within 15 feet of the court and referees are required to be vaccinated. Players are not.

However, protocols that have been sent to teams make it clear how much easier it will be to navigate the league’s health and safety protocols if a player has been fully vaccinated.

Unvaccinated players would be subject to rigorous testing and quarantines after being exposed to close contacts. They would also be forced to sit separately in locker rooms, during travel and meals and subject to mask requirements.

According to an NBA source, approximately 90% of NBA players are fully vaccinated.

The team also is expected to enter training camp next week without any injuries limiting players’ availability. LeBron James is organizing a minicamp in Las Vegas this weekend.

Lakers star LeBron James is all smiles during a victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder in February.
(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

Pelinka said James’ mindset this offseason is focused on another championship, a mentality a trimmed-down James has heading into his 18th season as the Lakers seek their 18th title. He has posted videos from his 6 a.m. workouts and is refreshed after the Lakers’ first-round exit last season.

“LeBron’s been working hard, working really early in the morning. And I think the thing that stands out is just his fitness level. He’s slimmed up,” Pelinka said. “And we all know LeBron studies the greats, and he adds things into his game, and I think going into this stage of his career, he’s made a decision to come back a little bit leaner, and I think that’s going to translate in his explosiveness and quickness.

“But he’s been very, very locked in with his training, and you just get a sense he has a confidence in his teammates. He really does. And I think when he looks around the locker room and sees the name plates and sees the guys he’s been on the court with, you can just tell he has a high level of confidence with his teammates and what this team could accomplish this season if we all lock in.”

Pelinka also praised new acquisition Russell Westbrook’s energy and Anthony Davis’ offseason work, in addition to his singing voice, which he showed off in front of Pelinka and other Lakers at his wedding last week.

One player who won’t be with the Lakers next week — Alex Caruso — was a priority to the team this offseason, Pelinka said. In early August, Caruso agreed to a four-year deal with the Chicago Bulls worth more than $9 million a season.

The Lakers unveiled a new sponsor for their jersey patches on Monday: Bibigo, a South Korean line of dumplings, sauces and frozen meals.

“That’s the thing with unrestricted free agency is you can be in the mix, but players control the ultimate choice. And Alex was tremendous here. He’s a championship player and we’ll be forever grateful for his contributions and his growth and seeing him go from a G League to a two-way to an elite player is something we’ll always be proud of.

“But he had choices and he chose another team. But we pursued him and wanted to keep him and same with Talen [Horton-Tucker]. And obviously came to a deal with Talen and Alex moved on.”

In addition to keeping Horton-Tucker on a three-year, $32-million deal, Pelinka said the Lakers accomplished what they wanted this offseason to maximize their chances with James and Davis.

“One was adding playmaking or a primary playmaker,” Pelinka said. “Two was shooting. And then three was, shifting back to, especially defensively, a model of sort of two rebounding defensive centers like we had when we won the championship in 2020. Those were the goals we had in mind.

“And I think if we look at the complexion of the roster, we feel like we addressed each of those three goals. That was something we set out to do, so we feel good about that.”


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