The Lakers general manager and president of basketball operations Rob Pelinka joined a conference call on Tuesday with reporters to discuss the team’s plan as they look ahead to the NBA resuming in Orlando on July 30. He explained that the Lakers would replace Avery Bradley who opted out of joining the team for personal reasons.
“That was a process we wanted to stay close with Avery on,” Pelinka said. “We wanted to support him and his journey, but of course for our team it’s tough. It’s tough to lose Avery.”
Bradley has been an integral part of the team after starting at point guard for 44 of the 63 games the Lakers before the season halted due to the novelty coronavirus pandemic.
“His toughness, his defensive tenacity, he was a starter,” Pelinka continued. “But we completely understand his decision. Of course, that’s a decision of mixed emotion from a basketball standpoint, as a friend of Avery’s and Ashley’s, and a former agent of their family, and as the GM of the Lakers, I was really hoping for them to have an opportunity to compete for a championship. But I understand that in this instance, safety and family is first, and that’s where things landed.”
Pelinka announced the team will reveal their replacement signing on Wednesday, July 1, with the opening a one-week NBA transaction window. Though he did not specify who the Lakers will sign, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported that the Lakers intend to sign J.R. Smith with the open roster spot.
The other question mark was Lakers’ big man Dwight Howard who expressed his discontent with the NBA return amidst the current climate of civil unrest via a statement to CNN. Howard, also recently suffered the loss of the mother of his six-year-old son who passed away on March 27 due to a seizure caused by epilepsy. Although Howard did not opt-out ahead of the NBA’s deadline on July 24 it is still unclear if he will decidedly join the Lakers in Orlando.
Rob Pelinka says all indications are that Dwight Howard is going to be with the Lakers in Orlando as he did not opt out by the NBA’s deadline #Lakeshow
— Laurantine (@LoJoMedia) June 30, 2020
“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 stated. He was “hopeful” that Howard will be on the Lakers roster at the NBA restart.
Should Howard decide to opt-out after the July 1 deadline, the Lakers will have the opportunity to replace him as well with a restricted pool of players with up to the three years of NBA experience unless they waive him.
In terms of who will be traveling with the team, Pelinka indicated the Lakers are still working through finalizing but will employ a “flex staffing” plan for the NBA mandated 35 team members who will accompany the team in Orlando.
As for player rotations the Lakers will have options in Smith, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Danny Green, Alex Caruso, Dion Waiters and Markieff Morris. Despite any roster adjustments, Pelinka showed no concerns about the Lakers being able to pick up where the team left off prior in their pursuit of a championship at the end of this season.
“We’ve had such a strong chemistry, such a strong team chemistry, that I think that platform is going to be seamless in terms of guys jumping on and being part of that identity and chemistry that we already had formed,” he said. “I don’t see that changing at all with the new additions, just because it’s such a strong identity.”