While Kyrie Irving has become the leader of a group of players questioning the NBA's plan to resume the season at Disney World, two Los Angeles Lakers have also made their opinions on the matter quite clear. Avery Bradley was reportedly the second player to speak on the Irving-initiated conference call last Friday, while Dwight Howard released a statement saying that now is not the time for basketball giving the momentum for social justice reform at the moment.
With the season set to resume at the end of July and the June 24 deadline for players to opt-out of playing at Disney looming, the potential absence of two key players could pose a serious threat to the Lakers' championship hopes. Fortunately, the Lakers expect Howard to play in Orlando, according to Tania Ganguli and Brad Turner of The Los Angeles Times. Bradley's plans are not clear at the moment.
On Wednesday, Howard released a second statement through The Athletic's Shams Charania stating that his intention was never to prevent the remainder of the season from being played, but did not say whether he planned to play at Disney.
Lakers center Dwight Howard: “Leaders sometimes become self serving and forget the people that they are supposed to represent...We support the NBA but in order to do that properly we must support every single one of us that represents that name." https://t.co/OAhwAkdoM2— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) June 17, 2020
Bradley released a statement through ESPN on Tuesday highlighting the meaning of a potential players boycott. "The actual act of sitting out doesn't directly fight systemic racism," Bradley said. "But it does highlight the reality that without black athletes, the NBA wouldn't be what it is today. The league has a responsibility to our communities in helping to empower us -- just as we have made the NBA brand strong."
No NBA player has definitively stated that they will not play at Disney yet, but multiple reports suggest that Irving has been voicing concerns based on those espoused by a large segment of the union that is uncomfortable speaking out. If that is indeed the case, quite a few players theoretically could announce their decision to sit out ahead of the June 24 deadline.
All reports have indicated that LeBron James does plan to play at Disney, though he has not said so on the record. If Howard or Bradley decide not to play, the Lakers might be able to sign replacement players during the league's upcoming transaction window, according to ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski. Former Lakers center DeMarcus Cousins remains unsigned, and would make sense as a potential Howard replacement if he does not play. There is no similarly obvious option to replace Bradley, but the Lakers signed another guard, Dion Waiters, just before the season was suspended, and he would seemingly be in line for more minutes if Bradley does not join the Lakers in Orlando.
Virtually every contending team in the NBA is likely dealing with similar questions. Players will need to decide for themselves if they are comfortable playing at Disney in light of the protests that continue to take place around the country, the growing number of positive coronavirus tests and all of the logistical concerns that the Disney bubble presents.