Kentavious Caldwell-Pope missed the casual interaction with fans before the game during warm-ups -- those regular, informal conversations courtside that provide a window into getting to know the people that cheer for his team.
Caldwell-Pope will get an opportunity to experience that connection again on Thursday, as the Los Angeles Lakers allow fans back into Staples Center for the first time in over a yea, when the NBA shutdown in March of 2020 due to COVID-19.
“That energy that the crowd gives you, that you feed off of, that can be big for not even just me, but for the team and any individual player on the team,” Caldwell-Pope said. “That energy can fill you up, so you’re ready to just go out there and play, just enjoy it and not really worry about anything else.”
For the first time this season, Los Angeles County will allow fans in attendance. The Lakers confirmed about 2,000 fans will be allowed into Staples Center. The Lakers are scheduled to unveil the team’s championship banner from L.A.’s NBA title run in the Orlando bubble last season on the final home game of the regular season May 12 against the Houston Rockets.
“I think it will be really fun,” Kyle Kuzma said about having fans in the building again. “Obviously, Staples misses having fans in the arena and we do, too. It’s going to be really exciting to have fans back, and it’s only fitting to have fans during that game (against the Celtics). And to have fans when the championship banner is raised, whenever that is in May, so it’s exciting.”
Added Lakers head coach Frank Vogel: “Man, I can’t wait. The mystique of being in that building with our great fans is a big part of why it’s so cool to be a Laker. And it’s just been absent this year, and it’s been missed. We’re excited to have our fans back, for sure.”
Fans in attendance will have to adhere to a strict set of guidelines to enter the facility, including a full vaccination record or negative test within 72 hours of game time; guests over two years old are required to wear a mask; and bags or purses of any size or prohibited.
Staples Centers said rental lockers will be available on the property. For more information, click here.
The Lakers are coming off an impressive, 4-3 road trip without the services of LeBron James and Anthony Davis.
“We got champions on the roster, and we got some hard, hard-playing players that really want it,” Kuzma said about winning on the road without the team’s two best players. “So, I think we’ve done a great job in the past few games of really figuring out how to win games together, figuring hot how to play with one another and figuring out how to get wins.”
The visiting Celtics will try to earn a measure of revenge after losing to Los Angeles 96-95 on January 30 in Boston.
Of course, James and Davis were healthy for that game, combining for 48 points and 21 rebounds.
James has been out since March 20 when he suffered a right, high-ankle sprain against the Atlanta Hawks. The Lakers are 6-8 with James out of the lineup.
Davis has missed 27 games in a row with a right calf strain. Davis has been regularly shooting before games, and he reportedly could make it back on the floor by the end of the month, with James potentially returning soon after.
However, with 17 games left in the regular season and the Lakers clinging to the No. 5 seed in the Western Conference, Caldwell-Pope isn’t expected to see both players anytime soon.
“We’ve still got another road trip we’ve got to finish and we’ve got to continue to just get wins,” Caldwell-Pope said. “We’ve got to do it together and as much as possible we’ve got to try and get the ‘Ws.’”