The Los Angeles Lakers are getting ready for their first playoff appearance since the 2012-13 NBA season. Due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, as well as nationwide protesting over racial injustice, this year’s playoffs will look much different.
Players like Kyrie Irving, Avery Bradley, and Dwight Howard have all expressed concerns over resuming play at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida.
All three are part of a players’ coalition that believes resuming the season under these circumstances will provide an unwelcome distraction to issues of racial justice. The NBA has already said players who choose to sit out the remainder of the season will not be disciplined, but will miss out on salary.
Despite Howard and Bradley being at the forefront of the coalition, the Lakers believe that Howard will be joining the team to Orlando, but they aren’t as certain with Bradley, according to Tania Ganguli and Broderick Turner of The L.A. Times:
There is a belief around the organization that Howard plans to play, while Bradley’s plans are less clear, according to people with knowledge of the situation.
There are definitely two equally valid arguments to be made about whether or not Bradley and Howard should sit out.
On one hand, Howard and Bradley have a very large platform to inspire change, and could make that their sole focus by sitting out. If they believe that basketball will be a distraction for them and others, they have every right to make that choice.
On the other hand, having all eyes on the NBA as they play games in Orlando may allow them to make their platform even greater. In addition, they could do more with the money they earn from these games.
From a basketball perspective, the Lakers would suffer greatly if Howard or Bradley decided not to report to the Orlando bubble.
Bradley’s hounding perimeter defense has taken pressure off of guys like Danny Green and LeBron James, who can focus more on wing players instead. Howard’s rim protection and leadership has been essential for times when Anthony Davis is off the court. Losing either one would be huge.
Both players now have about one week to decide whether or not they will join, until the league’s June 24 deadline. Whatever decision Bradley and Howard make, it should and will be met with respect by other Lakers players and fans.