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Lakers to start 2020-21 season without fans in stands

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FIRST, the Los Angeles Lakers were forced to skip a championship parade, and now, they are asking their fans to wait even longer for an up-close-and-personal gathering.

The defending National Basketball Association (NBA) champions announced Wednesday that they will start the 2020-21 season without fans at their home arena, Staples Center, and then assess the situation as the season progresses.

The Lakers said the decision was made with more than a month remaining before the season after guidance from state of California leaders, as well as local health officials.

The team’s official stance is that games will be held without fans “until further notice.”

“The health and safety of our fans, players, staff, and community are our main priority and we will continue to work with state and local officials to come up with a plan to safely welcome fans back to Staples Center in the adherence with local, state and NBA guidelines,” the team said in a release.

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The NBA officially agreed this week on a Dec. 22 start to the upcoming season that will include 72 games, 10 less than usual. An NBA season typically starts in October but is being pushed back this year because of delays created last season as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The just-concluded season was paused in March, resumed in late July in a “bubble” environment near Orlando and the Lakers came away with the title on early October with an NBA Finals victory over the Miami Heat.

The Lakers’ announcement seemed to suggest the team will wait to raise its most recent championship banner until fans can attend home games.

“We appreciate your continued support and look forward to coming together, when it is safe to do so, to celebrate the raising of our banner and the quest for another NBA championship,” the team said.

DUNCAN TO STEP DOWN
Meanwhile, San Antonio Spurs assistant coach Tim Duncan will step down from an assistant coach’s role on Gregg Popovich’s staff, the New York Times reported Wednesday.

According to the report, it was always in the intention for Duncan to serve only one season as an assistant. Duncan is expected to return to the player-development role he held with the organization before joining the bench.

Duncan is one of the best players in NBA history, and played his entire 19-year career with the Spurs while earning All-Star honors 15 times. He helped lead San Antonio to five NBA titles (1999, 2003, ‘05, ‘07, ‘14), earned league MVP honors in 2002 and 2003, was named Finals MVP three times, and landed on the All-NBA First Team 10 times.

Duncan was set to join the Basketball Hall of Fame, with Kevin Garnett and Kobe Bryant, as part of the 2020 class before the coronavirus pandemic pushed the ceremony back until 2021.

San Antonio has not made an announcement about filling Duncan’s absence on the coaching staff. — Reuters

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