Miles Bridges only pleaded no contest to felony domestic violence charges two weeks ago, and according to a report from Shams Charania of The Athletic, that means enough time has passed that the Lakers feel comfortable showing interest in being his next team if the Charlotte Hornets don’t opt to keep him in restricted free agency.
“Miles Bridges is a restricted free agent, so he is eligible to be signed by any team, but there is a league investigation ongoing after he pleaded no-contest to a felony case. I’m told there are several teams, including the Lakers and Pistons that are monitoring the situation and waiting to see exactly what transpires with his conversations with Charlotte and otherwise. He has a qualifying offer that did expire, but he still remains a restricted free agent.”
Here is the part where a lot of news stories would just add “the stat line,” but I am not going to do that here, because Bridges’ hypothetical basketball fit is far from the most important thing in this situation. If the Lakers do sign him, we can eventually break that down, but if you’re looking for that today, feel free to go elsewhere.
The reason for that is because, in case you forgot or were never aware, in July, Bridges’ wife, Mychelle Johnson, accused him of leaving her with “a fracture(d) nose, wrist, torn eardrum, torn muscles in my neck from being choked until (I) went to sleep and a severe concussion” after an alleged argument, an incident their child also allegedly witnessed, according to a now-deleted Instagram post. That post also featured videos of their son recounting the alleged assault, photos of Johnson’s alleged injuries, and a medical report that read “adult victim of physical abuse by male partner; Assault by strangulation, Brain concussion; Closed fracture of nasal bone; Contusion of rib; Multiple bruises; Strain of neck muscle.”
The months-long legal process that followed ending with Bridges pleading no contest means that he did not admit guilt, but the lengthy requirements for the three-year probation he received as a result of his plea are worth laying out in full (via ESPN):
During his three-year probation, Bridges, 24, will be required to complete 52 weeks of domestic violence counseling and 52 weeks of parenting classes, serve 100 hours of community service and undergo weekly narcotics testing with marijuana allowed only if there is a valid doctor’s prescription. He cannot own any guns or ammunition or any dangerous weapons. He also will have to pay a restitution fine of $300 and a domestic violence fine of $500, and obey the terms of a 10-year protective order, staying 100 yards away from and having no contact with the woman. Bridges and the woman maintain custody over their two children, and any visitation or exchange of children must be done peacefully and through a neutral third party.
With Charania reporting that the league is investigating Bridges, it is likely that he will face some sort of suspension whenever he next signs with a team. For more on that process, my colleague James Dator laid it out here in July:
The charges against Miles Bridges and how the NBA Domestic Violence policy workshttps://t.co/Cu1sAEh84U— SB Nation NBA (@SBNationNBA) July 1, 2022
It is also worth noting that the Lakers could only sign Bridges if the Hornets renounced his restricted free agency rights because they are over the hard cap, and thus cannot do a sign-and-trade. They could theoretically sign him to a veteran’s minimum offer sheet, but that feels unlikely for a variety of reasons (mainly that I cannot even recall if there has ever been such an offer sheet rendered in NBA history).
But improbable logistics of such a signing aside, it’s still disappointing to see the Lakers sniffing around here. Disappointing, but also unsurprising, and not just because Bridges is a Klutch Sports client, but also — as our former site manager Sabreena Merchant articulated well to Eric Pincus in the latter’s Bridges free agency explainer over at Bleacher Report — because the Lakers ignoring allegations like this is par for the course. And while this shouldn’t matter, they’ve done it for much less talented players than Bridges (links to allegations mine):
“There is always a dissonance with being a female NBA fan. That feeling has become more acute now after all of the news in recent weeks regarding Sarver, Udoka and Primo,” Sabreena Merchant of SB Nation told B/R. “Even a team with a female owner like the [Los Angeles] Lakers still displays a lack of empathy toward victims of domestic violence. They’ve employed Avery Bradley, Kendrick Nunn and DeMarcus Cousins, among others, in the last few seasons, to say nothing of the way the organization lionized Kobe Bryant.”
Those Merchant named may not have a no-contest felony conviction like Bridges, but each faced serious allegations of domestic or sexual violence. Some reached private settlements that remain sealed to this day.
“I believe that perpetrators of domestic violence deserve a second chance, but there has to be some way for these players to express contrition for what they’ve done, especially when the legal system seems ill-equipped to do so,” Merchant continued. “Too often, it feels like those misdeeds are wiped away the minute they sign a new contract. Bridges making his way back into the NBA doesn’t feel materially different to me than Nunn or Kristaps Porzingis still having NBA careers, and it wouldn’t surprise me at all.”
I don’t really have a seamless way to end this post, so let me leave you with an excerpt from my friend Katie Heindl, writing about Bridges (and too many others) in her “Basketball Feelings” Substack from this summer:
In sports the numbers are armament for men, liability for women. The richer a pro athlete, the more he can afford to pay to offset, to settle, to silence and the more a woman with conclusive and valid proof of bodily harm inflicted by said-pro athlete is out to get him. The numbers, even in the way we report on abuse and assault, are buffers. Stat lines of an athlete’s last or occasionally career-best season to close out what should be strict news items, like those that are quickly piling up about Bridges, act only as a supportive framing of violence.
It feels insane to link out to so many things I’ve written about the same thing, but then it feels insane to write them, again and again. More so that the one flimsy, mitigating response I have for myself in the face of violence and the blithe disregard of it in basketball is to write about it.
The real value of women in this space is still most profoundly as a backdrop. I don’t just mean this as bodies that absorb violence, or the quick flurry of stories about the violence that will centre them in its immediate aftermath, where men like Bridges will be cast against anonymous women we understand to be there, bearing the brunt of a life briefly (in the moment) coming apart, who will go on to pick up the pieces and never quite be able to get out of the larger, always eclipsing shadow of a “career derailed” or worse, a redemption arc.
Katie’s post is worth reading in full, but in case it’s not clear from everything above, no, I don’t think the Lakers should do this. But as history has shown us with both this team specifically and professional sports in general, that probably doesn’t matter.