When we look back and reflect on the championship-winning season the Lakers are coming off of, it’s easy to forget about Avery Bradley. Bradley, who started 44 games for the Lakers in the shortened regular season, decided not to join his teammates in Orlando for the NBA’s restart so that he could be with his family — particularly his 6-year-old son Liam, who has a history of respiratory problems.
But while Bradley wasn’t with the Lakers at the Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, he was supporting them from home as if he was. In Bradley’s media day press conference with his new team, the Miami Heat, on Tuesday, he detailed what it was like for him to watch his former team play without him in the playoffs:
“It was really hard for me. It was really hard. It was just tough watching every single same. I watched every game. I was talking to the GM, Rob [Pelinka] before every game and we would analyze the game together and talk after the game sometimes. It was tough. The championship game, my hands were sweating.
“I wanted to be out there because that’s what you dream of and play this game for: to be able to compete for a championship. But I wasn’t able be there. My team won and I was happy for them.
“We put in a lot of work all year to get there and put ourselves in a position to win and it was just amazing to see us be able to get the job done because we had a great group of guys and a special group and I knew we were going to have a chance from day one.”
Bradley’s comments are why it’s so insulting for anyone to suggest that he doesn’t deserve a championship ring. He didn’t stay home because he wanted to; he stayed home because he felt like he had to.
If he had known that the NBA’s bubble was going to be as successful as it was, maybe he would have made a different decision, but there was no way for him or anyone to know that. The risk outweighed the reward for him and his family.
The Lakers won’t play in front of fans any time soon, but when they do and Bradley makes his return to Los Angeles, he should get a warm reception because of the role he played in helping the Lakers lock up the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference. He’s a champion through and through.