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Newsletter: Lakers navigating another holiday with COVID surge

LeBron James bends forward, reacting to a foul called on him.
The Lakers’ LeBron James reacts to a foul called on him during a loss to the Phoenix Suns on Tuesday.
(Jae C. Hong / Associated Press)

Happy holidays everyone, it’s Dan Woike with the Los Angeles Times delivering to you the latest weekly Lakers newsletter. You can find this every Thursday or Friday in your inbox between shipping delay notifications.

Our executive sports editor, Chris Stone, suggested I try to describe what it was like to be traveling alongside the Lakers last week as they went through a COVID-19 outbreak spurred by the Omicron variant, so I’ll do my best.

When will it be me?

That was sort of the big question that I got from everyone beginning last week in Dallas, where the Lakers landed with three players lost to the COVID-19 health and safety protocols. One of those players, Malik Monk, traveled with the team.

Before tipoff Wednesday night, the Lakers had lost other members of their traveling party, including TV broadcaster Bill Macdonald.

There was some uneasiness with some folks I know who now either play or work for the Mavericks. Not totally dissimilar to the Lakers’ final pre-pandemic game on March 10, 2020, players joked with me as they came in for handshakes and hugs. But those jokes weren’t dismissive. They were more for cutting through the tension.

“You sure you want to risk it?” I said to one player I’ve known for his entire career. We both laughed. But seriously, were we sure?

At this point, I should say that I’m fully vaccinated and boostered, meaning my risk for serious illness is very, very small.

Yet as the father of two young children, my anxiety was centered on either bringing the virus into my house or, if you ask my wife, even worse, getting stuck on the road in a 10-day quarantine while she tries to wrangle a toddler while caring for a newborn.

By the time we left Dallas and got to Minnesota, we’d gotten word that a new handful of players had entered the protocols, meaning we were dealing with a full-on outbreak. I was set to visit my parents in Chicago before Sunday’s game, so I quickly ordered a rapid test and had it delivered to their home (could still get them on Thursday).

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Conversations with team staff members I’d bump into either at the arena or around town were always the same. They were testing negative, but there was almost always a “for now” tacked onto the end of everyone’s answers when I asked how they were doing.

Some of those people have since tested positive. Luckily, no one I’ve spoken to is seriously sick.

I think the other part of all of this that I need to explain to you is that whenever a beat writer travels with a team during the winter, you invariably end up feeling sort of crummy.

Late games, early flights, quick climate changes — it’s a recipe for feeling rundown and sniffling. Trying to figure out how and what I’m feeling at any given moment when you factor in the “normal” things — it’s stressful.

Thankfully, I’ve tested negative so far. I don’t have any symptoms, and after a good night of sleep, I’m feeling pretty spry.

But I know that’s all “for now.” It could all change in a sneeze.

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Programming notes

I’m so excited about some of the projects we’ve got coming up at the L.A. Times between now and the new year.

Don’t want to spoil anything — but among the things we’ve been working on is a list of the top Lakers moments at Staples Center. I, of course, misunderstood the assignment and put together a list of the top overall moments.

Here is what was on my initial list:

Lakers title in 2000 vs. Indianapolis

Lakers title in 2010 vs. Boston

Kobe’s 81-point game in 2006

Kobe’s final game 2016

Kings’ Stanley Cup in 2012

All-Star Weekend 2011 — Blake Griffin wins the dunk contest, sets stage for Clippers reinvention while Kobe wins MVP

Michael Jackson funeral 2009

Nipsey Hustle funeral 2019

L.A. Sparks title 2001

Kings’ Stanley Cup 2014

Wrestlemania 21

Prince/Beyoncé open the Grammys 2004

Robert Horry game-winner against Sacramento 2002

Kobe-Shaq lob in 2000 against Portland

2000 Democratic National Convention

Chris Paul beats the Spurs in Game 7 in 2015

Clippers beat the Warriors after Donald Sterling gets banned in 2014

Kobe and Gigi Bryant memorial 2/24/20

Lakers get their rings in front of an empty Staples Center in 2020

Clippers host a conference finals game for first time in 2021.

Song of the Week

Christmas (Baby Please Come Home) by Darlene Love

For a second, let’s ignore Phil Spector’s involvement and just focus on Darlene Love’s vocals — beautiful but desperate. There’s an awesome saxophone solo. Ignore U2’s cover. This, for me, is the song I want to hear most this time of year.

Hope you have a wonderful holiday.

Since we last spoke ...

Until next time...

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


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