Avery Bradley might not have played for the Los Angeles Lakers in the Orlando bubble, but he was an integral part of the early portion of their championship season. Bradley started at guard for the majority of the season and had the highest net rating on the team aside from LeBron James and Alex Caruso. He ultimately decided against going to Orlando because of health concerns involving his son, but Bradley didn’t give up on the team.
“I watched every single game,” Bradley told ESPN’s Dave McMenamin and Malika Andrews. “I am still a Laker.”
According to McMenamin and Andrews, Bradley was in close communication with the team throughout the playoffs, texting teammates after big games and speaking to general manager Rob Pelinka before every round. Pelinka, Quinn Cook and assistant coach Phil Handy all spoke with Bradley on FaceTime from the locker room after winning the title. The Lakers haven’t forgotten about his contributions.
Bradley revealed in July that the Lakers informed him of their plans to offer him a championship ring if they won it all, and McMenamin and Andrews confirmed that. Less clear is whether DeMarcus Cousins will receive one. Cousins signed a one-year deal with the Lakers during the 2019 offseason, but tore his ACL in an August workout and never played a game for the team. He was waived in February to make room for Markieff Morris, but is still technically eligible for a ring.
Cousins is a free agent this summer. Bradley can be, but has a $5 million player option. His play during the regular season warrants a raise, but given the tough market conditions and his playoff absence, it seems likelier that he is back on the roster next season fighting to help the Lakers repeat as champions.
Even if they don’t, Bradley has more than earned his jewelry. The Lakers earned the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference based in large part on the success of their starting lineup before entering the bubble. That fivesome, featuring Bradley, James, Anthony Davis, JaVale McGee and Danny Green, had the seventh-best plus-minus of any five-man lineup in basketball at +98. During the regular season, that same group with Kentavious Caldwell-Pope in Bradley’s place got outscored by 13. Bradley helped the Lakers nab the top seed, which ultimately helped vault them to a title. Even if he never plays another game in Los Angeles, he should be remembered fondly for that alone.