Avery Bradley’s first stint with the Los Angeles Lakers finished sooner than anticipated — in big part thanks to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
Bradley couldn’t have known he would end the 2019-20 season with a 104-102 loss to the Brooklyn Nets on March 10, 2020, just days before the NBA came to a halt for over four months due to the worsening COVID-19 situation. When the league returned, he decided not to partake in in the Orlando bubble, where the games resumed, for family reasons.
And in the offseason later that year, the 30-year-old guard opted out of his contract with the Lakers and joined the Miami Heat — even though he had become an irreplaceable part of head coach Frank Vogel’s backcourt before the pandemic began.
The circumstances made for an uneasy end to Bradley’s time with the Lakers. However, the Lakers quickly seized on the opportunity to bring the guard back when the Golden State Warriors waived him just before Opening Night. Vogel then said L.A. welcomed Bradley “with open arms” and dismissed the notion that his absence in the Orlando bubble would cause any sort of problems upon the renowned defender’s return.
Anthony Davis agrees. “He explained the situation to us. I think it’s better if he tells you the situation, but it’s something that we respected,” the Lakers forward said.
“We respected it and we tried to get him back this summer as well,” he revealed.
Davis pointed out Bradley has already made an impact, registering a solid cameo in the Opening Night loss to Golden State despite not taking part in a single training session with L.A. beforehand. The guard checked in for eight minutes in the fourth quarter, making two 3s and showing off his signature moves on the defensive end.
“What he brings to our team is unmatched in this league defensively,” Davis said. “He comes in and hits two big threes.”
“Just having that defensive presence picking up a guy 94 feet, getting to the ball. So it was good to have an opportunity to get him back this year as well. We love him here. We’re cool with him, but that whole bubble thing is something he should talk to you guys about.”
Davis even revealed that Rob Pelinka had conversations about Bradley with him in the past regarding Bradley potentially returning to the team just to make sure they were all on board with it.
“This summer when we knew he would probably get bought out by Miami? Houston. That got brought up to us and Rob [Pelinka] actually asked us about the whole bubble situation and all that to make sure we’re all good. We were all good, and then in the summer, we had an opportunity with the buyout. We talked to him for a little bit. It didn’t work out and then we had another opportunity and we were able to get him a third time around.
“We definitely wanted him here. Like I said, what he can bring to us defensively and offensively is something that we need.”
Bradley appreciated Lakers tribute video in preseason
Before making his second debut for the Lakers, Bradley returned to Staples Center as a Warrior and helped beat L.A. 111-99 in the preseason. During the first timeout, the organization welcomed the guard back in the arena with a tribute video, showing highlights of his time with the team in 2020.
Bradley said the gesture made him emotional — and that it showed the uniqueness of the Lakers franchise. “They didn’t have to, but I really appreciated it,” he said.
“That was just a nice feeling to be back here in the building with the fans. This is always home, being a part of the special team I was a part of is something that I’ll always hold onto for the rest of my life. So I’m just happy to have a chance to put this jersey back on.”
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