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Understanding the NBA’s unconventional 2020-21 season
SportsPulse: This isn’t your grandparent’s NBA. Following a short layoff from the previous season, the league has devised a unique plan for 2020-21, but will it go off without a hitch?
Despite restrictions in place during the pandemic, the Los Angeles Lakers celebrated their NBA championship run in Las Vegas after pursuing the title for nearly three months at a quarantined campus in Florida.
“It is empty. We definitely had our own fun,” Lakers forward Jared Dudley said Thursday on a conference call. He intimated players celebrated in a private setting. “That’s all you need. It was actually better that way.”
It’s unclear if the Lakers violated any CDC protocols with their post-title celebrations or how many were involved. Dudley didn’t list every player, but he said “the whole team” was there.
The team said it didn’t have any details of the trip, and the NBA didn’t immediately respond to questions. In the offseason, players were not subject to the league’s protocols that were put in place in response to the pandemic.
Inside the bubble in Orlando, players and staff were tested daily and were not allowed to leave the Disney campus. The league released a 113-page health and safety protocol before teams entered the bubble in July, which included guidelines on social distancing and wearing masks in public outside of practices and games.
Last week the league sent a memo to teams outlining the updated health and safety protocols as the start of exhibition play begins Dec. 11. As part of the plan, players were required to self-quarantine at home from Nov. 27-Dec. 2 except for “essential activities,” such as trips to the grocery story and hospital and traveling to the team facility for COVID-19 testing and individual workouts. In the first batch of testing announced Wednesday, the league reported an 8.7% positivity rate among 546 players tested.
Mandatory individual workouts began earlier this week. Players had to return at least three consecutive negative PCR tests before participating.
Since the franchise could not host a championship parade in L.A. because of city-imposed restrictions on public gatherings, Dudley organized team outings both in Las Vegas and San Diego, where he lives in the offseason. The get-togethers took place shortly after the season ended, well before the CDC recommended travel be curtailed around Thanksgiving.
“We had a tester there testing everybody so I felt like I was still in the bubble,” Dudley said. “Even though we were out of the bubble, we were so prone to testing every day and hanging out with each other and taking the trophy, having some alcoholic beverages together and reminiscing.”
Dudley struggled to share stories from those trips for two reasons. One, Dudley admitted “a lot of them are just being [drunk] and having a good time.” Secondly, Dudley maintained “it wasn’t crazy.”
“That’s why we want to run it back. We missed the parade. We didn’t get the proper celebrations,” Dudley said. “So the only way to do it is hopefully Pfizer cures everyone in June, we win it again and then do it the right way.”