Bradley and Howard were among the players to speak up in Friday’s galvanizing conference call about the season restarting with more than 80 other players, including NBPA Vice President Kyrie Irving, NBPA president Chris Paul, Kevin Durant and Carmelo Anthony.
Bradley was among the most vocal on the call, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic, urging players to “take a stand and utilize this moment to play chess, not checkers.”
Bradley and Howard were in the same camp as Irving, who organized the call and has been against the plan to restart the season in the bubble of Disney’s ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Orlando.
“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.”
Bradley has started 44 games for the Lakers this season, averaging 8.6 points and providing a solid defensive presence. Howard has had a resurgent season back in Los Angeles, providing a spark at the center position off the bench with 7.5 points, 7.4 rebounds and 1.2 blocks per game.
Players Worried NBA Restart Would Distract From Social Issues
According to Charania, Howard voiced that the return of the NBA would be a distraction from the issues the country is facing through the protests against police brutality and racism in policing following the death of George Floyd.
Another “respected NBA player” told ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski: “Once we start playing basketball again, the news will turn from systemic racism to ‘who did what’ in the game last night. It’s a crucial time for us to be able to play and blend that to impact what’s happening in our communities.”
Other Lakers have voiced that they are firmly on the side of a restart, like Kyle Kuzma. The third-year Lakers forward tweeted his stance on Friday.
“Some of us want to hoop and compete don’t get that twisted….” Kuzma said.
Lakers veteran Jared Dudley backed up Kuzma, saying: “Facts! What time is this zoom call today! I’m on it!”
LeBron James Wasn’t on Conference Call, Wants to Play Season
A prominent figure missing on the players’ call was Lakers star LeBron James, who is in favor of the restart and chasing his fourth NBA championship, according to The Athletic’s Sam Amick. The four-time NBA MVP believes that he can continue to inspire change while playing basketball.
“Sources say James, whose Lakers have as good a chance at the title as any of the 22 teams invited to Walt Disney World, believes playing in Orlando won’t deter his ability to continue inspiring change,” Amick wrote. “He wants to keep making his mark off the court. He wants to play basketball. And as has always been the case, he clearly believes he can do both at the same time.”
James has made an impact off the court with his platform, most notably helping form a new organization called “More Than a Vote” to protect voting rights for Black Americans.
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.