Avery Bradley had missed 13 straight games with a fracture in his left leg, but finally returned to the court on Wednesday night to help the Los Angeles Lakers beat the Orlando Magic. As one would imagine — especially given his minutes restriction of 15 minutes — Bradley definitely appeared rusty at times, but enjoyed the experience of being back out on the floor all the same.
Bradley was asked about his return to the court, and sounded pretty excited to have that game to build on (via Spectrum SportsNet):
“I felt good. It was great being out there. I wish I could have gotten more minutes but it was nice to be out there with my teammates being able to battle again.”
Bradley finished the game having played 17 minutes, so he was good enough to even outpace his own restriction, even if he would have liked to play even more. He also came off the bench after beginning the year as the team’s starting “point guard,” and it will be interesting to see whether that continues moving forward.
Frank Vogel is responsible for that decision, and praised Bradley for what he brought after the win:
Frank Vogel was glad to Avery Bradley back: "Shocking, Avery Bradley comes back and we hold a team under 90 points."— Kyle Goon (@kylegoon) December 12, 2019
Before the game, Bradley said he was looking forward to the opportunity to get back out there, but said added that he hasn’t wasted his time off the floor (via Spectrum SportsNet):
“It’s been hard,” Bradley said. “Obviously I want to be out there helping my teammates out, but I’ve been able to learn as well... Learning how I can play off some of my teammates once I get back out there on the floor.
“I’m just happy I’m healthy and able to get back out there and be able to compete.”
Some of that learning was put into practice in fairly obvious ways. Though Bradley only played the aforementioned 17 minutes, he carried a pretty impressive +12 on the night. You never know with single-game plus-minus totals, but as Vogel joked after the game, adding Bradley back to a Lakers defense that had been somewhat slipping was probably always going to pay dividends.
How Vogel handles the rotation as Bradley works his way back to his previous minutes average is going to be interesting to watch. It kind of makes sense that adding such a big part of the team back to the gameplan would somewhat muck up the overall rhythm of the team, but that they were able to win as they iron out those wrinkles is really all that matters.
Remember, Kyle Kuzma and Rajon Rondo were both out as Bradley made his return, bringing the Lakers back to the rotation they had at the beginning of the season. Some of the way they won back when the year started returned, too, as they got an ugly victory on Wednesday night.
Vogel is going to have his work cut out for him when everyone is healthy again, but those are the kinds of problems a coach doesn’t mind, and wouldn’t dare complain about. It will just be worth monitoring his solutions to them when everyone is back out on the floor.