On Wednesday, July 1, the NBA’s one-week transaction window will close, and teams will have to submit their finalized rosters to the league. The Los Angeles Lakers currently have 17 players on their roster, but they will be permitted to sign a replacement player for Avery Bradley, who has decided to not join the team in Orlando for personal reasons.
Bradley was one of the first players to publicly express their concerns with the season restarting, so his decision to opt out of returning didn’t come as some big surprise. However, he wasn’t the only player from the Lakers to speak out against the season restarting.
Earlier this month, Dwight Howard released a statement via CNN stating that he felt it was inappropriate for basketball to return during a time of civil unrest in the United States. Additionally, the mother of one of Howard’s children recently passed away.
While Howard didn’t opt out before the NBA’s soft deadline on July 24, he still hasn’t made a final decision on whether or not he’ll join the team in Orlando, according to Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka.
“So Dwight is another player of ours that has an extenuating circumstance in addition to some of the social justice messaging he’s been doing — which we’re supportive of,” Pelinka said during a conference call with reporters on Tuesday. “One of his sons, his six-year-old son, did lose, tragically, his mother several weeks ago. So we’ve been working very closely, and I’ve been in contact with Dwight often, and his agent.”
Pelinka, who also confirmed on the call that the Lakers would replace Bradley — even though he wasn’t allowed to say the name of the player yet — says that the team and Howard’s camp will keep working together to see if he will play the rest of the season or not.
“And we, as you guys know, there was an opt-out date that Dwight did not give notice that he was opting out, so we are going to continue to work through those extenuating circumstances with Dwight, support him, support his six-year-old son, and hope for the best that he would be a part of our roster in Orlando. But that will be a continued process.”
If Howard opts out past the July 1 deadline, the Lakers will be able to replace him, but their pool of free agents will be limited to players with zero to three years of experience in the NBA unless they waive him to create a roster spot. The same can be said of any other player that decides to opt out or tests positive for the coronavirus while the team is in Orlando.
Teams can start signing replacement players on July 1. At that time, the Lakers are expected to sign J.R. Smith to replace Bradley. Had Bradley opted out in July, the Lakers wouldn’t have been able to sign Smith without waiving Bradley or another player.
Suffice to say, Howard will have a big decision to make before the day ends.