Lakers have 6 weeks to prepare to play without Avery Bradley

There’s no point in discounting the power of momentum in sports, and when the NBA suspended its season in early March, Avery Bradley had it.

“It’s been hot the last five, six weeks or so,” Lakers coach Frank Vogel said March 8, after the Lakers beat the Clippers for the first time this season. Bradley made six of 12 three-point attempts that day.

“It was spectacular,” said LeBron James. “We know what we were going to get from him defensively, but what he gave us offensively tonight was gigantic.”

The Lakers also had momentum then. That weekend, in addition to beating the Clippers, they beat the league-leading Milwaukee Bucks and saw the franchise’s first playoff spot since 2013. The two main reasons for their rebirth are James and Anthony Davis, for Of course, but the Lakers built an admirable supporting cast for their two stars, and Bradley’s contributions became increasingly critical.

But basketball has been far from the only consideration for the league and its players for the past three months.

Because of that, the Lakers face an unprecedented playoff scenario, months wiped out from most of their regular season, during a global pandemic at a time when COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations are increasing dramatically in Florida.

And they’ll face it without Bradley, a key player. Bradley announced Tuesday that he would not join his team in Florida due to concerns about his family and his young son, who has a respiratory condition.

Laker guards now include Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Alex Caruso, Dion Waiters, Rajon Rondo, Quinn Cook, and rookie Talen Horton-Tucker. Caldwell-Pope is most likely to fall into Bradley’s starting role as he did while Bradley was injured during the regular season, with Caruso next in line.

Both players have been solid defensively for the Lakers. Caruso averages 5.4 points, 1.9 rebounds, 1.8 assists and one steal per game, while Caldwell-Pope averages 9.5 points, 2.1 rebounds, 1.7 assists and 0.8 steals per game.

After signing Waiters on March 6, the Lakers had been incorporating him into their system, with plans to play him in mid-March. The waiters exercised the same day that the Lakers saw JR Smith, who also played well in his audition. According to people familiar with his plans, the Lakers have had some conversations about adding Smith now that Bradley has chosen not to play.

From the start of the Lakers’ training camp, Bradley, a two-time NBA defensive player, made his presence known.

It was a defense plague and Vogel quickly made it a starter. The Lakers soon became one of the best defensive teams in the NBA. In their 10 games with Bradley to start the season, they faced their opponents with less than 100 points five times.

“He is a dog,” teammate Dwight Howard said of Bradley during the season. “He comes out, protects the best perimeter player from the other team. It doesn’t let them breathe, and I really like what it brings to our team, the intensity at the end of the defense. Then, on the offensive side, he is a silent assassin.

They then lost Bradley to a fracture in his right leg that caused him to lose 13 games. In their first seven games without Bradley, they only had one opponent below 100 points.

It was then that Vogel implemented the Avery Challenge.

“Since Avery came out, our defense took a bit of a hit,” Davis said December 6. “The last two games we have been able to be the No. 1 team in defensive rating and we want to get there.” every time. We put our hats on defense knowing that it will fuel our offense.

The Lakers were not helpless without Bradley, but they took time to recover from the shock of losing him. They will have around six weeks to determine how they will recover this time.