Rob Pelinka, the Lakers' general manager and vice president of basketball operations, thinks his team has an edge in the NBA bubble.
They like each other.
“I would put the mental game and health as number one on the board,” Pelinka told Spectrum SportsNet on Tuesday. “I think that’s why we’re so excited and confident. We have such a together team. There’s a brotherhood on our team. These guys love each other. They love spending time together."
With players separated from their families and friends and isolated together in an NBA bubble on the Walt Disney World campus near Orlando, Pelinka said the Lakers' chemistry gives them an undeniable advantage.
“I think it’s going to be a mental journey," he said. "All of us are making huge sacrifices to be apart from our loved ones and that is not easy. I think all of us, we get our fuel and our energy from our family and friends and those that love us. Here, we have to turn to that. I think we have a group of guys that generally care about each other. The parts just fit. I do think that’s going to help us on the mental journey. It’s really a hallmark of the Lakers' culture and what we stand for.”
Their camaraderie has already inspired some players to make great sacrifices -- even from inside the bubble.
Alex Caruso recently decided against going to his sister's wedding outside of Austin because he likely would've had to undergo an extended quarantine and miss some of the team's scrimmages and potentially their bubble opener against the Clippers on Thursday. With Rajon Rondo sidelined with a fractured right thumb, Caruso didn't want to leave his team shorthanded at the backup guard position.
Pelinka said considering what every player is giving up and going through, there's no way this season's champion should have an asterisk.
“We have a saying here that whoever comes away with this, it’s not an asterisk, it’s a gold star,” Pelinka said. “That’s how we see it. The team that comes out of the bubble or the campus with a trophy, what that team is going to have to endure to reach that finish line, history has not seen. Anything but an asterisk. A gold star, that’s the way we look at it.”
NBA commissioner Adam Silver and his staff are widely being praised for the precautions they took in trying to create a safe bubble environment.
The league announced Wednesday that none of the 344 players inside the bubble have tested positive for coronavirus since July 20.
Major League Baseball, which is not playing in a bubble and started traveling last week, already had an outbreak. As of Wednesday morning, 16 members of the Marlins’ traveling party - players and staff - have tested positive for coronavirus.
Pelinka said he's encouraged by what the NBA has accomplished so far, but added it's far too early to celebrate yet.
“With no cases, it’s not time for a victory lap," he said. "We have to stay humble. We have to continue to say 'Hey, the protocol is working.' That doesn’t mean we can get lax.
"Obviously, thoughts and prayers for the other sports and hopefully they can be on a journey of good health. What Adam Silver, David Weiss, Byron Spruell and the players union, what they’ve put together here is a blueprint that’s working. We have to be grateful and appreciative that it’s safe here and a safe environment.”