The Los Angeles Lakers surprised during the final countdown to the 2021-22 season’s tip-off, bringing back Avery Bradley ahead of the Opening Night clash against the Golden State Warriors.
The veteran guard briefly played for L.A. in the 2019-20 campaign, working his way into the Lakers’ starting line-up before the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic upended the memorable season. But when the games resumed in the Orlando bubble after a four months-long hiatus, Bradley decided to remain with his family during the uncertain times — missing out on what would turn out to be a historic title run.
In the offseason, he then opted out of his contract with the Lakers and signed with the Miami Heat.
Bradley’s career has taken a turn for the worse since then, struggling to remain fit and failing to make an impact in Miami and then Houston. In September, the 30-year-old signed a non-guaranteed contract with the Warriors but didn’t make it past final roster cuts before Opening Night.
The Lakers then quickly pounced on the opportunity to claim Bradley off waivers. Asked about the signing, head coach Frank Vogel explained he still holds the guard in high regard. “He’s just a guy obviously that we respect,” Vogel said.
“He’s been part of our program the last couple of years, two years ago more specifically. He’s someone that when he was waived, we felt like he could help us.”
Vogel added that he didn’t consider Bradley’s decision to opt out of the Orlando bubble an issue that needed to be addressed with the team upon his return.
“He made a personal choice based on his family during the pandemic where there’s a lot of fear around the world, you know? So we’re welcoming him back with open arms,” the coach said.
Bradley’s contract with the Lakers is understood to be non-guaranteed, suggesting he could be a short-term option as the team waits for the injured Trevor Ariza and Talen Horton-Tucker to return.
Bradley puts in solid shift against Warriors
Bradley showed on Tuesday he can make an instant impact at Staples Center. In over just eight minutes on the floor, the guard made a couple of threes to end the night with six points. He also proved he still excels at making stops, showing off some tough perimeter defense.
Although Vogel said before the game that he didn’t expect Bradley to play since he hasn’t practiced with the team, he explained why he went to him in the fourth quarter of a close game.
“Baze had four fouls, so we were concerned about getting him back in too soon and we were struggling with our coverages to start the fourth quarter. So that’s why we threw him in there.”
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