Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press
The 2019-20 NBA season looked like it could be a return to glory for the Purple and Gold.
While LeBron James’ first year with the Los Angeles Lakers did not go as planned, Rob Pelinka and Co. went out and got Anthony Davis to be James’ co-star in the offseason, surrounding the superstar duo with a slew of key role players.
The Lakers were thriving as a result. Los Angeles stampeded to a 49-14 record in their first 63 games, including an 8-2 mark after the All-Star break.
James was playing at an MVP level and Davis was a candidate for Defensive Player of the Year. Veterans like Dwight Howard and JaVale McGee were thriving in their roles as defensive stalwarts, while Danny Green and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope offered much-needed spacing.
Not to mention, the Lakers were holding off a number of contenders at the top of the Western Conference. They looked like one of the top contenders to win the NBA title.
Of course, the coronavirus pandemic threw a wrench in L.A.’s momentum.
The current suspension of play has lasted nearly three months, and it took multiple months before teams were allowed to conduct individual workouts at their respective facilities.
But the NBA is back, as are the Lakers’ championship aspirations. Both the board of governors and the NBPA approved the league’s return-to-play plan, which will feature 22 teams heading to Orlando, Florida for eight regular season games before a slightly modified playoff format.
According to ESPN’s Dave McMenamin, the Lakers would have taken just about any competitive format, so long as they had the opportunity to win a title.
McMenamin said both players and coaches are ecstatic they have a “title to play for,” with one member of L.A.’s coaching staff telling McMenamin “Let’s go baby.”
Although there are still questions about the progression of individual workouts ahead of the projected start of training camp at the end of June, it is clear Lakers personnel are just excited to know they will be playing again.
Tim Reynolds of the Associated Press provided a template schedule for all 22 teams. The Lakers are among the squads falling two games short, but the NBA said it will rely on winning percentages and other standard procedures to break any potential tiebreakers, per ESPN’s Tim Bontemps.
Despite being two games short, L.A. has the inside track on the No. 1 seed in the West. The Lakers are still 5.5 games up on the crosstown rival Clippers, though they do have a fairly challenging schedule according to Reynolds’ template.
In any case, basketball’s return is right around the corner, and the Lakers are relishing their chance to capture the Larry O’Brien Trophy for the first time since 2010.