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Newsletter: A newsletter farewell from our departing reporter

LeBron James celebrates a basket by teammate Lonzo Ball during his regular-season debut with the Lakers on Oct. 19, 2018.
LeBron James celebrates a basket by teammate Lonzo Ball during his regular-season debut with the Lakers.
(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)

Hi, this is Tania Ganguli from the Los Angeles Times, with your Lakers newsletter. This will be my last one, but don’t worry, the newsletter is continuing, so you won’t miss out on any Lakers news..

I started writing these at the beginning of the 2017-18 season, my second year on the Lakers beat. Looking back through those old newsletters showed me that season was about preparing the nest for LeBron James. I wrote about James wishing Lonzo Ball happy birthday, James commenting on Ball’s first triple-double, James’ reaction to the billboards around Los Angeles recruiting him, and whether James’ brand needed Los Angeles.

In retrospect it was clear back then that James would soon be a Laker.

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I’ll always have a soft spot for the young former Lakers who were shuttled off to create the super-team that won the 2020 championship. First, Julius Randle, D’Angelo Russell, Larry Nance Jr. and Jordan Clarkson who overlapped with Kobe Bryant. Then, Ball, Brandon Ingram, Ivica Zubac, Kyle Kuzma, Josh Hart and Moe Wagner.

They were saddled with the weight of expectation, the pressure of sudden fame and fortune, and constant judgment on everything they did. There were times when I wish I’d done a better job of remembering that these men were so young, yet tasked with huge responsibilities. In the last couple of years I’ve enjoyed seeing them settle into new teams, earn respect around the league and, in some cases, big contracts — Clarkson and Ingram got big deals this fall. Most of them were on teams invited to the NBA’s restart bubble. Catching up or checking in with them was a treat.

I was a beat writer for 10 years, covering football before the Lakers. My last season on the beat was probably the most challenging and rewarding I had. From the tense beginning in China to the bizarre end in Orlando, Fla., few moments were without controversy off the court. In between, tragedy paralyzed the organization after Kobe Bryant’s sudden death and gave new meaning to the season. A national conversation about racism and police brutality fostered a mission for many players and coaches. Through it all, Lakers basketball operated nearly seamlessly on the court. Frank Vogel became exactly the coach they needed. The bond between James and Anthony Davis was fascinating to watch up close.

As I leave, I wonder if covering the NBA will ever be the same again. What’s most valuable to a beat writer is the ability to have a casual conversation with someone you cover. It helps you get to know them, which helps create good stories and relationships that can benefit the player, coach or executive as much as the reporter during trying times.

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To avoid spreading a potentially deadly virus, that kind of casual interaction is gone. But will things go back to normal once it’s safe to do so? The players’ union has said they’d like locker rooms closed, and players were not shy to say they enjoyed having no reporters in their pregame locker room in March. Will this be their chance to do it permanently?

I also wonder about the safety of the NBA’s new plan, especially considering the problems that football — which has the benefit of being an outdoor sport — has had.

The bubble was successful in that nobody living on campus tested positive for COVID-19, according to Commissioner Adam Silver. He also said during the Finals that there were people who were not living on campus, but who did have access to campus, who tested positive for COVID-19 during the bubble.

Even the bubble was not impenetrable.

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Our Broderick Turner and Dan Woike will keep you abreast of all of that as the Lakers navigate this season.
I am heading to academia to study this industry that’s gone through so much change and tumult.

Writing these newsletters and the interactions with you readers quickly became a highlight for me. Where Twitter and its commenters can be uncivil and cruel, the vast majority of my newsletter replies were from nice people thanking me for writing them. I appreciated that more than you’ll know.

One last time, allow me to catch you up on what’s been happening in Lakerland.

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Since we last spoke ...

Until next time...

As always, pass along your thoughts to me at tania.ganguli@latimes.com, and please consider subscribing if you like our work!


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