Bridges is set to return to the court Friday night for the first time in 583 days against the Milwaukee Bucks for an NBA In-Season Tournament game after sitting out all of last season and completing a 10-game suspension this year for his role in a domestic violence case in 2022.
Bridges’ return comes even as he has a pending court date for allegedly violating a protection order stemming from the domestic violence incident that derailed his NBA career more than 16 months ago.
That court date had been set for Monday, but was rescheduled for Feb. 20, 2024.
He declined to comment on the case because it is ongoing.
“Basketball has been my sanctuary and for me to be away from it for a year has been kind of hard on me, so I’m just happy to be back,” Bridges said after Thursday’s practice.
The NBA confirmed to The Associated Press that it is allowing Bridges to play while the case remains in the courts.
The Hornets released a statement Thursday before practice saying: “We are comfortable with Miles returning to play based on our current understanding of the facts of the recent allegations and remain in contact with the NBA as that matter proceeds through the court process.”
The league imposed a 30-game suspension this summer for Bridges, but he was given credit for 20 games time served after sitting out all 82 games last season.
The 25-year-old Bridges is expected to provide a huge boost for Charlotte, which went 3-7 in his absence to start the season.
He is considered one of the team’s best players and has a notable, and at times electric, chemistry with point guard LaMelo Ball.
Hornets head coach Steve Clifford said he won’t decide until Friday if Bridges will start against the Bucks, but confirmed that he’ll play quite a bit.
“He’s worked really hard, but you don’t know because it’s not easy to not play a game after [sitting out] this length of time,” Clifford said. “It may take a little bit but he has done everything he can do to give himself a good chance to play well early. He’s gotten in really good shape and he does a lot extra. He has worked very hard.”
It may take some time for the former Michigan State product to knock off the rust, as he last played for the Hornets on April 12, 2022, wrapping up a season in which he led the team in scoring at 20.2 points per game.
Entering the summer of 2022, Bridges appeared headed for a contract worth in excess of $100 million as a restricted free agent, but was arrested and charged in Los Angeles on multiple counts of domestic violence just days before the start of free agency.
Bridges entered a plea of no contest in November to a felony domestic violence charge and the remaining counts against him were dismissed.
The Hornets re-signed Bridges to a one-year, $7.9 million contract this summer, but recently allegations were made that he violated the terms of his restraining order and he turned himself into police in Lincoln County on Oct. 13. Bridges appeared before a district court judge and was released on $1,000 bond.
Bridges “unlawfully” and “knowingly” violated the protection order, and “continually contacted the victim,” according to court documents.
Bridges said he isn’t sure what type of reception he’ll receive from the crowd at the Spectrum Center, but said he feels he deserves another chance because “I know what type of person I am.”
“I know a lot of people feel a [certain] way about me being back and I understand that. Like I said before, I have to gain their trust back,” Bridges said. “I’m going out there looking to play and if I can get us some more wins, I feel like people’s perspective will change a little bit on me. I’m trying to get out there and help the team as much as I can.”
Reporting by The Associated Press.
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