With Bradley opting out, Lakers eye JR Smith

Los Angeles Lakers guard Avery Bradley has opted out of playing in the NBA’s Orlando restart of the season, he told ESPN on Tuesday night.

Bradley, who started 44 games for the Lakers this season, informed team management of his decision to stay back. The Lakers will be able to sign a replacement player for Bradley, with free-agent scorer JR Smith emerging as a leading candidate, sources told ESPN.

At the forefront of Bradley’s decision to remain with his family is the well-being of his oldest child, 6-year-old son Liam. Bradley and his wife, Ashley, have three children.

Liam Bradley has a history of struggling to recover from respiratory illnesses, and it’s unlikely that he would have been medically cleared to enter the Orlando bubble with his family.

“As committed to my Lakers teammates and the organization as I am, I ultimately play basketball for my family,” Avery Bradley said. “And so, at a time like this, I can’t imagine making any decision that might put my family’s health and well-being at even the slightest risk.

“As promised also, I will use this time away to focus on the formation of projects to help strengthen my communities.”

Bradley has been a co-leader with Brooklyn‘s Kyrie Irving of a players coalition that has sought to have several issues centered on social justice and racial equality and empowerment addressed with the NBPA and NBA in the league’s restart.

Bradley has been a key two-way player for the Lakers, who are the Western Conference’s No. 1 seed heading into the 22-team restart in Orlando.

Bradley stands to lose a projected $650,000 in salary by sitting out the season’s resumption. He has averaged 8.6 points and 2.3 rebounds for Los Angeles this season.

In a decade in the league, Bradley has averaged 11.8 points through his stays with the Boston Celtics, Detroit Pistons, LA Clippers and Memphis Grizzlies.

Kentavious Caldwell-Pope would be the likely candidate to replace Bradley in the starting lineup. As for Smith, his agent, Rich Paul, and Lakers vice president of basketball operations and general manager Rob Pelinka have been engaged in conversation ever since Bradley informed management that he did not plan on reporting back to the team for the conclusion to the season, sources told ESPN.

Smith, who teamed with LeBron James on the Cleveland Cavaliers‘ championship team in 2016, has not played in the NBA since the beginning of the 2018-19 season when he parted ways with the Cavs.

The Lakers worked Smith out earlier this season before signing guard Dion Waiters, another Paul client, to an open roster spot.

Smith, 34, has career averages of 12.5 points (37.3% from 3) and 3.2 rebounds in 15 seasons with New Orleans, Denver, New York and Cleveland.

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