While not many players opted out of the Walt Disney World bubble, one of the biggest names to do so was Los Angeles Lakers guard Avery Bradley.
With Bradley gone, head coach Frank Vogel had to do some adjusting with the starting lineup and rotation, and it’s required the likes of Danny Green, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Alex Caruso to step up in a big way.
It hasn’t gone perfectly for L.A., as they struggled through seeding play and dropped Game 1 in each of their first two playoff series. However, the team now is on the verge of reaching the NBA Finals for the first time in 10 years.
While many think of Bradley as a defensive player, there’s no doubt that his offense and shot creation helped the Lakers greatly during the season.
Vogel recognized that factor, saying the team has missed him on both ends of the floor. “We’ve still been really solid on the defensive end, but he’s a two-way player,” Vogel recently said.
“What he brought to the table offensively, in particular the final four to six weeks (before the hiatus), really brought a lot of offensive firepower. And he’s traditionally been a solid performer in the playoffs. We’re definitely going to miss him in all those ways.”
With Bradley gone, Vogel has turned to Caldwell-Pope and Caruso to make up the gap. “He’s one of our best defenders on the perimeter,” Vogel said of Caldwell-Pope.
“The loss of Avery Bradley makes his value and Alex Caruso’s value that much more important. He’s been playing exceptional for us, especially on that end of the floor. He’s going to be an important part of what we do.”
As someone who played alongside Bradley for a significant number of minutes, Green also misses what he brought to the team, despite believing they have the pieces in place to make up for it. “Just another guy that can handle the ball for us and play-make,” said Green.
“He usually comes off that strong right hand off curls, throwing that lob. KCP and A.C. do a good job of it, a lot of our guys are capable. Dion has done a good job playmaking. Avery gave us another aggressive scorer, he finds his pull-up, gets to the basket and puts a lot of pressure on the defense with how fast he gets out of the lane.
“But we have a lot of other guys that can do that as well. We’re trying to figure out and fit the pieces in the right places.”
Playoff Rondo returns
In addition to being without Bradley, the Lakers lost Rajon Rondo to a fractured thumb before seeding games began. It required surgery that kept Rondo out until the playoffs began. His bubble debut was then delayed because of back spasms.
Since getting onto the court, Rondo has been a key factor for the Lakers. Vogel not only praised the veteran for helping orchestrate the offense, but also touted his defensive contributions as well.
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