Lakers’ Avery Bradley chooses not to restart NBA; JR Smith emerges as replacement candidate, sources say

Los Angeles Lakers shooting guard Avery Bradley has chosen not to play in the NBA’s Orlando, Florida, season restart, he told ESPN on Tuesday night.

Bradley, who started 44 games for the Lakers this season, informed team management of his decision to stay behind. 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 stay with his family is the well-being of his oldest son, Liam, his 6-year-old son. Bradley and his wife, Ashley, have three children.

Liam Bradley has a history of difficulty recovering from respiratory illnesses, and it is unlikely that he has received medical clearance to enter the Orlando bubble with his family.

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

“As promised too, I will use this time to focus on building projects to help strengthen my communities.”

Bradley has co-led with Kyrie Irving of Brooklyn of a coalition of players who have attempted to address various issues focused on social justice, racial equality, and empowerment with the National Association of Basketball Players and the NBA in rebooting the league.

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

Bradley will lose a projected salary of $ 650,000 by ignoring the resumption of the season. 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 in 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 the Lakers vice president of basketball operations and general manager Rob Pelinka have been in conversation since Bradley informed management that he did not plan to report to the team by the end of the season, sources told ESPN.

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

The Lakers trained Smith earlier this season before signing guard Dion Waiters, another client of Paul, for an open spot on the list.

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

Dave McMenamin of ESPN contributed to this report.