“It makes this series a little different – very different, actually – in terms of the use of our centers. I don’t want to go into too much detail, but obviously we’re going to be the LA Lakers, as we’ve been all year. We adjusted to a small ball team last set, but I expect us to get back into shape.
McGee and Howard have played 23 minutes in the last four games of the conference semifinals – all of the Lakers’ wins, notice – as Vogel hooked up Markieff Morris in the 5th straight and also called for more possessions with Anthony Davis playing the pivot.
But LA’s size has been a strength all season, as they led the league in blocks and finished ninth in rebound. Jokic – averaging 25.4 points on 51.5% shots, 10.8 rebounds and 6.0 playoff assists so far – is the type of enemy the Lakers will try to meet with force. in the series which begins on Friday.
For Howard, who was reluctant to even join the team in Florida as he looked after his children and focused on the racial inequalities the country faced, temporarily losing his spot in the rotation was a challenge. But he forged it, with McGee becoming two of the greatest cheerleaders in NBA history.
“Energy is very important, and if our morale is down, as they always have said, one bad apple can ruin a whole basket,” Howard said Wednesday, speaking to reporters for the first time since. mid-July. “If we run out of energy it can become contagious, it can go to another player and to another player. We just have to look at all the positives despite what we may be going through – there are a lot of people out there. things that are much worse that are not here in the bubble, so that we can always find a way to stay positive. ”
Howard’s 6-year-old son David, who helped him stay optimistic in the bubble, joined his father when the Lakers were allowed to bring family to the NBA campus. David’s mother, Melissa Rios, passed away in March.
But when there are no basketball games to play – or to cheer on – monotony sets in.
“There’s really nothing to do,” Howard said. “If I can be honest with you, there is nowhere to go, there is no way to release anything. Any feeling you might have, it’s just like we’re stuck. So just try to find joy in the fact that I have my son with me, the fact that all we have to do is win eight games to win a championship.
“So I just try to stay positive with everything. But it’s extremely difficult, being in a place where I can’t go out, I can’t see family, friends. You just at the hotel. So it’s very difficult to see the same walls every day. But in the end … can’t allow it to really affect us too much, but it’s extremely difficult. ”
His team will try to complete the task of passing two more rounds and leaving the bubble as champions, which is well worth it. But even with the Milwaukee Bucks ousted in the East and the Nuggets knocking out the LA Clippers, there’s no guaranteed path to the NBA title.
“I think with Denver it’s just a great basketball team. They play well with each other. They share rock. Move it. Cut. You have excellent shooters. They have a whole team, ”said Lakers forward Kyle Kuzma. . “So we have our hands full. ”
And it’s not just the Nuggets, either.
“Any of those three remaining teams can beat us, and the Denver Nuggets are a great basketball team. So are the Boston Celtics, as are the Miami Heat, ”said Vogel. “So even though we have players who have been there, we haven’t been there as a group yet. So we are still very keen to do the job, to recognize and respect the opponents who remain. “