How quickly NBA teams get their COVID test results back has become more crucial than how rapidly they can bring the ball upcourt, and the most important data they analyze now concerns how many players, coaches and staff members are in COVID protocol and unavailable for games.
There was a sense early this season, as arenas and stadiums reopened their doors to fans, that even though COVID hadn’t disappeared, sports and life were becoming less perilous. Vaccines had become widely available. Elaborate rules had been put in place to help keep athletes and fans safe. We could eat at restaurants again. We got to exhale.
Now, we’re holding our collective breath again. The surge of the Omicron variant has pushed the world back into a state of uncertainty and is compromising the quality of competition in every sport. None of the major leagues has paused play — that’s a drastic step after two seasons of pandemic-reduced revenues — but for the hard-hit NHL, at least, taking a break doesn’t seem far off.
The Lakers’ progress, already complicated by their status as an old team that often seems more suited to win an all-star game than a championship, has been slowed by the ups and downs of COVID’s vengeful return. Rosters change from hour to hour and minute to minute as players enter or leave the NBA’s health and safety protocols.
Lakers coach Frank Vogel started planning for Friday’s…