PHILADELPHIA — Corey Brewer was fast asleep on Wednesday when his phone started ringing at 5:30 a.m., two hours before he was scheduled to leave for the airport to join the Lakers for eight days on the road.
When the Lakers veteran swingman finally answered, his regular Uber driver, Sam, had an urgent message. A wildfire had sparked overnight along the 405 freeway, clogging Brewer’s usual route from his Tarzana home to the airport, where the team plane was scheduled to depart for Philadelphia at 9 a.m.
“I looked at my phone half asleep,” Brewer said prior to the Lakers’ 107-104 victory over the 76ers at Wells Fargo Center. “He said, ‘Yo, we got to leave early, can I come now and get you? … I need to come now if you are going to have any chance of making it.”
The Skirball Fire forced the evacuation of 700 homes and as of Thursday was only 20 percent contained. With his early morning wake-up call, Brewer found himself in close proximity to a devastating natural disaster for the second time this year.
Brewer was in Houston, where he maintains an offseason home, during Hurricane Harvey and narrowly avoided damage.
“It got all the way up to the front of my house and then went back down,” Brewer said. “I got lucky.”
People throughout the Lakers organization have been impacted by the Southern California wildfires, including Brook Lopez, whose neighborhood was evacuated.
Other players, like Julius Randle and Jordan Clarkson, live closer to the beach.
“Luckily, I’m OK,” Randle said, “but I’m praying for everybody out there, I know some people who are affected by it. It’s just very unfortunate but luckily my family’s OK.”
On Wednesday, the Lakers’ traveling party departed for Philadelphia before a producer for the Spectrum SportsNet broadcast team could make it to the airstrip.
“I felt bad we left somebody in L.A.,” Coach Luke Walton said. “We have a 15-minute policy and he was late. I didn’t realize at the time the fires were that bad.”
Fortunately, Brewer had Sam.
“He was going to knock on the door (if I didn’t pick up),” Brewer said. “He knew I had to go for this trip. There is no way I would have made it (without him). He’s a good guy. Sam is the man. I use him all the time.”
A drive that usually takes an hour on Wednesday morning took more than twice as long, Brewer said. Sam ended up detouring off of the 405, which was eventually closed for a portion of the day.
“It’s crazy right now,”…