Lakers' Rob Pelinka Says the Orlando Bubble Will Be a 'Mental Test'

Timothy Rapp@@TRappaRTFeatured ColumnistJuly 1, 2020

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - FEBRUARY 25: Rob Pelinka attends a basketball game between the Los Angeles Lakers and the New Orleans Pelicans at Staples Center on February 25, 2020 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Allen Berezovsky/Getty Images)
Allen Berezovsky/Getty Images

The NBA's 22-team restart at the Walt Disney World Resort near Orlando, Florida, will be an unprecedented event, as players, coaches and staff will be kept away from the public because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

And Los Angeles Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka believes it will test the mental fortitude of teams.

"I think Orlando itself is going to be as much of a mental test as it is a physical test just because of the extraordinary circumstances there," he told reporters Tuesday. "I think a team like ours that has such a strong togetherness component will have an advantage at that part. This team of guys love being together and love playing together. I think that's the significant part of the [first] 63 games."

Pelinka said the Lakers staff has been preparing for some of the mental hurdles the team might face in such an unusual setup.

"We have mental wellness people on staff here and we've been working with them on developing a protocol to address some of the concerns that are going to come up from an extended time away from family or an extended time living in a city that's not your home," he noted.

"Just keeping guys fresh, keeping life interesting," he added. "Keeping everyone's passions sharpened, I'm sure there will be many, many stories coming out of Orlando about some of the different practices that evolve once we get down there."

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The Lakers head into the restart as one of the favorites to win the title, currently sitting atop the Western Conference standings at 49-14. But they won't return at full strength, with Avery Bradley skipping out on Orlando because of health concerns with his son and Dwight Howard's status unknown following the death of Melissa Rios in March to an epileptic seizure, the mother of his six-year-old son David.

The Lakers are reportedly planning to sign veteran guard JR Smith to take Bradley's roster spot, per Marc Stein of the New York Times. Smith spent several years playing alongside LeBron James in Cleveland.

So there will be some on-court adjustments as well. But the mental strain of living in a bubble environment for a few months is a huge concern and one that even will affect front-office executives like Pelinka.

"Have I had nights at dinner where I'll look over and my 10-year-old daughter has tears in her eyes and I ask her why and she says, 'It's because daddy could be gone for three-and-a-half months'? Yes, that stuff is part of this," he said. "But I think she understands the bigger picture."

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