Avery Bradley, Rajon Rondo leaving Lakers in free agency
The Lakers have turned over nearly their entire backcourt one day into free agency as two more key players announced they won’t return.
Avery Bradley signed a two-year deal with the Miami Heat, which the Associated Press reported would have a second-year team option. Rajon Rondo announced on his Instagram account he would be going elsewhere after two seasons with the Lakers, and Yahoo Sports was first to report that he had signed a two-year deal with the Atlanta Hawks.
Bradley was the only Laker who didn’t travel to Disney World for the restart, and thus didn’t play against the Heat in the Finals. The Athletic reported that Jimmy Butler helped recruit the 6-foot-3 veteran guard to South Beach. Rondo was lured to Atlanta by money: His deal is worth a reported $15 million.
The signs of both departures cropped up before free agency. Bradley declined his second-year player option with the Lakers earlier this week, reportedly in search of a second season. By trading for Dennis Schrӧder, who has often been compared to Rondo, the Lakers signaled they were preparing to move on from the 34-year-old veteran.
Losing both takes away key role players from last season’s Western Conference-leading campaign and adds pressure for the Lakers to bring back Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, who opted out of his $8.5 million for next season and is looking for a raise.
Bradley started 44 games for the Lakers last year, averaging 8.6 points and guarding opposing lead ball-handlers most nights. He was often singled out by coach Frank Vogel as the tone-setter for the defense, picking up opponents full court when the Lakers needed a jolt.
But as Bradley became the only Laker to not travel to Florida for the championship run, that’s when Rondo – a divisive figure among fans during his two years in L.A. – became critical.
Returning from a thumb fracture he suffered in July, Rondo averaged 8.9 points, 6.6 assists and 1.4 steals per game from the second round on. Pivotal games against Houston, Denver and Miami helped boost the Lakers and revamp Rondo’s reputation as a postseason performer. In the clinching Game 6, he scored 19 points on 8-for-11 shooting.
“To the fans…thank you for welcoming me with open arms from Day 1 and showing me love,” Rondo wrote on his Instragram post. “Being apart of #LakeShow was something special and I’m proud we brought it back to you!
“Now, what’s next…” he wrote.
Already, the Lakers are not bringing back three key guards from last year’s rotation: Bradley, Rondo and Danny Green. The team also cut Quinn Cook, a welcome locker-room presence who struggled to play his way onto the floor last year.
While trading for Schrӧder and signing Wesley Matthews in free agency has added shooting and brought back some defensive presence, the Lakers will have limited options if Caldwell-Pope decides to go elsewhere to chase a bigger contract.
Alex Caruso is the only main rotation guard who remains under contract next season, and Talen Horton-Tucker, who received some playoff minutes against Houston, will also come back.