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The Sports Report: Who will show up for the Lakers at training camp?

Dwight Howard of the Los Angeles Lakers
Dwight Howard
(Getty Images)

Howdy, I’m your host, Houston Mitchell and, thank you for your good wishes and thoughts about my return. It is much appreciated.

We start with Tania Ganguli and the Lakers, who aren’t sure exactly who will be showing up at training camp.

Around 1 p.m. on Tuesday, the afternoon before training camp, the Lakers didn’t know which players would be available for that first session.

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“The process of testing is every other day and so I can’t predict what the test results I’m going to get this afternoon will be,” Rob Pelinka, the Lakers’ general manager and vice president of basketball operations, said Tuesday during a video conference call. “And so that question changes moment to moment, test to test.”

The NBA, which suspended operations March 11, will be attempting to resume operations in July. Teams will travel to Disney’s ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Orlando, Fla., during the second week of the month.

The league will allow teams to hold mandatory individual workouts for players at their team facilities starting Wednesday, the same day teams must submit the names of their travel party, which can be no bigger than 35 people, including up to 17 players.

Once they go to Florida, which the Lakers are planning to do July 9, they will be able to hold mandatory group workouts.

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Those rules are set, as is the strict protocol teams and players will have to follow regarding the virus that has disrupted communities around the world and killed more than 125,000 Americans. Even as cases rise in Florida, the NBA believes it has found a safe way to resume in the state.

“All of us see the reports and the numbers and the spikes in the various cities we live in and parts of Florida,” Pelinka said. “Yes, of course, those numbers are daunting. But the whole purpose of creating this environment is to not have the virus be there and keep the virus on the outside. … I think our goal as a collective entity is to try to pull that off where it’s safer inside than on the outside.”

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The Lakers won’t have veteran guard Avery Bradley, who decided to skip the trip out of concern for the health of his young son, who has a respiratory condition that puts him at high risk if he were to contract COVID-19.

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“It’s tough to lose Avery — his toughness, his defensive tenacity,” Pelinka said. “But we completely understand his decision. … As a friend of Avery’s and [wife] Ashley’s and as a former agent of their family, and as the GM of the Lakers, I was really hoping for them to have an opportunity to compete for a championship. But I understand that in this instance, safety and family is first.”

Pelinka has been in communication with Dwight Howard, who has expressed hesitancy about going to Florida. Howard’s focus this summer has been on issues of racism and justice, as well as a difficult time for his family. The mother of his 6-year-old son died suddenly in March due to epilepsy. Pelinka said that also is weighing on Howard.

“We are going to continue to work through those extenuating circumstances with Dwight, support him, support his 6-year-old son and hope for the best that he would be a part of our roster in Orlando,” Pelinka said.

BASEBALL

Helene Elliott, on what baseball can do to make life more tolerable for fans this season:

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If Major League Baseball can launch a 60-game season in late July--and that’s still far from certain because of recent COVID-19 surges in several states and players’ fears for their health--its return must be creative, fan-friendly, and innovative.

Remind us why we fell in love with baseball. Show those who abandoned the game why it’s worth coming back, that the strategy and drama and rhythms of summer can be hypnotic. Create emotional connections that bring us closer even though we have to be physically distant, while fans are banned from stadiums and players are forbidden to give each other high-fives or walk-off home run hugs. Give us reasons to care.

The first step should be to make it easier for everyone to watch and ditch those 7 p.m. starts.

Television will dictate schedules because money talks and because the prime push behind staging a shortened season amid this pandemic is that owners want to generate TV revenues to offset their losses at the gate. But the Dodgers and Angels should set their game times at 5:30 p.m. as often as possible. Five o’clock would be even better, but shadows on the field at Dodger Stadium at that hour could pose a valid concern to players.

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Start absolutely no later than 6. Maybe even throw in more day games besides the afternoon games scheduled on getaway days. This is the perfect moment to get away from those 7 p.m. starts, which really mean the first pitch isn’t thrown until about 7:10 p.m. and that regulation games can plod along until 11 p.m. or sometimes beyond. Make it more convenient and tempting to watch from first pitch to last pitch.

Our work routines have changed. Homes have become offices for many people. There’s no reason to delay the first pitch to accommodate fans leaving work, battling freeway traffic, and finding a parking space at the stadium because none of that will happen, at least initially. Schedules have become more flexible. Shouldn’t baseball change, too, and be more accessible to everyone?

BORN ON THIS DAY

194`1: Hockey player Rod Gilbert

1952: Hockey player Steve Shutt

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1953: Football player Mike Hayes

1954: Golfer Mike Reid

1958: Basketball player Nancy Lieberman

1960: Runner Lynn Jennings

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1961: Sprinter/long jumper Carl Lewis

1972: Hockey player Corey Hirsch

1977: Hockey player Jerome Iginla

1986: Baseball player Charlie Blackmon

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DIED ON THIS DAY

2009: Boxer Alexis Argüello, 57

2010: Football coach Don Coryell, 85

AND FINALLY

Carl Lewis: The Master Finisher. Watch it here.

Until next time...

That concludes today’s newsletter. If you have any feedback, ideas for improvement or things you’d like to see, email me at houston.mitchell@latimes.com, and follow me on Twitter at @latimeshouston. To get this newsletter in your inbox, click here.

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