MIAMI • The Western Conference-leading Los Angeles Lakers will be without starter Avery Bradley when the National Basketball Association (NBA) season resumes, as the guard announced on Tuesday that he will not join the team next month in Florida.
Bradley told ESPN that his decision was made out of concern for the health of his six-year-old son, Liam, who has dealt with respiratory problems.
After a four-month hiatus prompted by the coronavirus pandemic, the NBA will send the top 22 of its 30 teams to the Walt Disney World Resort near Orlando, Florida. Training is due to run from July 9-29 with games to commence on July 30.
"As committed to my Lakers teammates and the organisation as I am, I ultimately play basketball for my family," Bradley, 29, told ESPN.
"I can't imagine making any decision that might put my family's health and well-being at even the slightest risk."
The rules of the paused season will allow the Lakers to replace him on the roster, and multiple media outlets reported that free agent J.R. Smith could be a top target. The former Cleveland Cavaliers guard won an NBA championship alongside current Lakers star LeBron James in 2015-16. But the 34-year-old may be unfit, last appearing in an NBA game in November 2018.
Bradley averaged 8.6 points and 2.3 rebounds for the Lakers in 49 appearances this season, including 44 starts.
His concerns are not unfounded. Seven NBA players have tested positive for the coronavirus recently, according to various media reports on Tuesday.
The only one of the group who was specifically identified was Denver Nuggets All-Star centre Nikola Jokic, who is reportedly under quarantine in his native Serbia. Two unnamed members of the Phoenix Suns have the virus, according to the Arizona Republic. And ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski tweeted that an unnamed Western Conference play-off team had four players test positive in the past week.
Reigning champions Toronto Raptors became the first to arrive in Florida but will stay in southwest Florida until entering the safety zone early next month.
To comply with NBA safety protocols, individual players are working out in a controlled atmosphere until group workouts are permitted.
I ultimately play basketball for my family. I can't imagine making any decision that might put my family's health and well-being at even the slightest risk.
AVERY BRADLEY, Lakers guard, on sitting out the restart of the NBA season next month.
REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE