The NBA anticipated that, upon setting up the rules for its return to action after the suspension of the season in March because of the novel coronavirus outbreak, there would be players who would opt out of rejoining their teams. While he is not a star by any stretch, the biggest name to choose not to play remains the Lakers’ Avery Bradley.
And there has been some speculation about how the team’s headline player, LeBron James, feels about that, speculation that has been mostly fueled by James’ silence on the subject. The Lakers will sign James’ former teammate, J.R. Smith, to fill Bradley’s spot.
Teammate Danny Green has expressed support for both Bradley and center Dwight Howard, who has wavered on his commitment to finishing the season in Orlando but is expected to play. Bradley’s official reason for missing out on the return is to be with his family. He also has a player option in his contract and can, potentially, be a free agent this summer.
“There are some things that are bigger than basketball, you never know what is going on with guys’ families,” Green said on his Inside the Green Room podcast. Green said he had spoken with Howard but had been unable to get in touch with Bradley.
Avery Bradley and LeBron James: ‘A Tough Conversation’?
One person who knows Bradley well, NBC reporter A. Sherrod Blakely, who covered Bradley with the Celtics from for the first seven seasons of his career, speculated that sitting out was surely difficult for Bradley because he understands how it could affect James—not just this year, but in terms of his time with the Lakers and his legacy beyond that.
James has already won three championships but the Lakers rank among the favorites to win a fourth once games are back in action. James, at 35 years old, might not get many more opportunities to win championships, even with the Lakers well set-up for their future.
“I think that was a tough conversation for Avery,” Blakely said, according to NBC Sports Boston. “Because the one thing about Avery Bradley is, he’s very respectful of all players. … Even when Avery wasn’t playing (in Boston), he was always in the huddle trying to hear what they’re saying, trying to soak in as much information as he could because he wanted to be a great player and he wanted to learn from the greats. I think that was a very difficult conversation for him. Because Avery knows that LeBron’s window to win (another) championship is shrinking by the day, and he knows what he can bring to the table.”
Bradley Has Been Valuable Lakers Piece
Losing what Bradley brings to the table is something with which the Lakers are wrestling now. Bradley is a capable scorer—in his most productive season, in 2016-17 in Boston, he averaged 16.3 points—but has willingly accepted a small scoring role in L.A., instead serving as an important cog in the team’s defense. Bradley remains one of the best, most consistent perimeter defenders in the NBA.
He has also shot 36.4% from the 3-point line this season, a solid number that had been getting better. Bradley shot 45.2% from the 3-point line in the 18 games before the season was put on hold.
Green, in an interview with former NBA star Caron Butler, said that the Lakers will, indeed, need both Bradley and Howard to finish off this season with a championship.
“I think it’s just important that we’re together,” Green said according to Lakers Nation. “Obviously we’re going to need Avery Bradley, we’re going to need Dwight Howard to be playing for us to have a chance. But I think it’s important that we stay healthy — and not just our team, but the league.”
We don’t yet know any other Lakers’ take on the situation—including LeBron James.