On Monday, the Los Angeles Lakers claimed Avery Bradley off waivers and signed him to their last roster spot.
On Tuesday, he was thrust into the rotation in the fourth quarter as Frank Vogel searched for answers in a game that was slipping away from them.
Bradley had a strong debut, hitting two 3-pointers in his short cameo and playing the patented point-of-attack defense that made him a favorite of Vogel’s two seasons ago as a starter before he ultimately opted out of playing in the bubble for the playoffs. Bradley’s familiarity with LeBron James, Anthony Davis and Vogel’s system both offensively and defensively was immediately noticeable and nearly sparked a comeback in the 121 to 114 loss.
There's some value in Avery Bradley simply knowing how to play alongside James and Davis, especially early on in the season. Here, he realizes the strongside corner is empty, relocates on the baseline and loses Jordan Poole in the process. Leads to an open corner 3 pic.twitter.com/UflzrTOPEo
— Jacob Rude (@JacobRude) October 20, 2021
Bradley is one of the many pieces that Vogel has to work to fit in a puzzle that features only three positions – those of James, Davis, and Russell Westbrook – set in stone. The veteran guard was cognizant of that fact in his post-game press conference:
“I just want to help this roster in any way I can,” Bradley said. “I just want to go in there and just play hard. That’s my focus.”
Playing hard is exactly what Bradley did. Cutting off the ball, relocating to get open in the corners, harassing the likes of Stephen Curry 30 feet from the rim, Bradley did basically everything one could ask from a role player signed the night before. His post-game quotes called back on being “thankful” for the opportunity to join the Lakers, an organization he called “home” and that was evident throughout his eight minutes of playing time.
— Spectrum SportsNet (@SpectrumSN) October 20, 2021
It’s hard not to get carried away with Bradley’s performance but there is the sobering reality that he is the 15th man signed to the roster and the only one with a nonguaranteed contract that, if waived by January 7th, would save the Lakers both money and a roster spot they could use to pursue players in the buyout market.
“Hopefully this is something where I can continue to be here for the rest of the season,” Bradley said about his status on the team.
The Lakers have other gaps to fill, mainly a bigger wing that can help shore up a defense that could struggle to contain some of those stars on the perimeter, especially in the absence of Talen Horton-Tucker and Trevor Ariza. That only makes Bradley’s role more tenuous, especially when partnered with the inconsistency he has displayed in recent years as injuries and age have caught up to him.
But for one night, Avery Bradley showed the Lakers what they would be missing if they did cut him – a ruthless defensive pest at the point of attack whose intelligence offensively makes him a perfect fit on a roster loaded with three superstars. He will have to do more to maintain his job but the trajectory is currently favoring the veteran.