Howard has had a resurgent season back in Los Angeles for a second stint, providing a spark at the center position off the bench with 7.5 points, 7.4 rebounds and 1.2 blocks per game. He’s expected to bring that to Orlando, according to Tania Ganguli of The Los Angeles Times, although the plans for starting guard Avery Bradley are still uncertain.
“There is a belief around the organization that Howard plans to play, while Bradley’s plans are less clear, according to people with knowledge of the situation,” Ganguili reported.
Avery Bradley Wants More Support From League on Social Issues
Bradley has started 44 games for the Lakers this season, averaging 8.6 points while providing a solid defensive presence.
But his focus has not been on a restart, but rather how player’s can optimize their platform to bring awareness to social injustices against the African American community. He is helping lead the players coalition that is asking league office, ownership and sponsors for a plan on how they will help.
“Regardless of how much media coverage will be received, talking and raising awareness about social injustice isn’t enough,” Bradley told ESPN. “Are we that self-centered to believe no one in the world is aware of racism right now? That, as athletes, we solve the real issues by using our platforms to speak?
“We don’t need to say more. We need to find a way to achieve more. Protesting during an anthem, wearing T-shirts is great, but we need to see real actions being put in to the works.”
Dwight Howard: ‘Basketball Isn’t Need at This Moment’
After a call with more than 80 players, Howard made his stance fairly clear on the NBA restart, although he didn’t go as far as saying he would not play.
“I agree with Kyrie,” Howard told CNN in a statement. “Basketball, or entertainment period, isn’t needed at this moment, and will only be a distraction. Sure it might not distract us the players, but we have resources at hand a majority of our community don’t have. And the smallest distraction for them, can start a trickle-down effect that may never stop.”
Dwight Howard statement, provided by his agent, to CNN: pic.twitter.com/sk9uSSHlpp
— Jill Martin (@ByJillMartin) June 14, 2020
That statement echoed what Irving reportedly said on the call with the other players.
“I don’t support going into Orlando,” Irving told the players. “I’m not with the systematic racism and the bull—-. Something smells a little fishy. Whether we want to admit it or not, we are targeted as black men every day we wake up.”
Kyrie Irving told NBA players on call Friday, sources tell @TheAthleticNBA @Stadium: "I don’t support going into Orlando. I’m not with the systematic racism and the bullshit. Something smells a little fishy."
— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) June 13, 2020
Howard has recently expanded on that stance during a recent appearance on CNN.
That’s the first thing I want people to understand: I want to win a championship so bad. Going to L.A., for me, has been the best thing in my life and I’m very appreciative of just being on that team. Playing with LeBron, playing with A.D., just representing the Lakers again has meant the world to me. I just personally have seen so much pain from our people.
I just feel like our people, we need attention. I really feel like our world is hurting right now. There’s so much stuff going on in our world, that I just feel like we don’t need to get distracted by anything. I would definitely want to play and win a championship, but I don’t want anything to distract us from what’s going on in our world. It’s hurting me, it’s hurting my family, it’s hurting all of our families. Everybody is feeling it right now. I just think we need to focus on what’s going on.
There has been no uncertainty about LeBron James plans. The four-time MVP is eager for the restart and the pursuit of a fourth title. He believes he can continue to speak out on social issues while wrapping us the season.
Before the NBA season was put on hold, the Lakers were rolling behind James and Anthony Davis, reeling off a 49-14 record — the best in the Western Conference. If the season restarts, they are the favorite to win the title at +200.