Bridges, speaking publicly for the first time since signing a one-year, $7.9 million contract to return to the Hornets, vowed to rebuild relationships with teammates and become more active in the Charlotte community.
He pleaded no contest in November to a felony charge that stemmed from accusations that he assaulted the mother of his children in front of them. Bridges, 25, was sentenced to three years of probation.
“I want to apologize to everybody for the pain and embarrassment that I have caused everyone, especially my family,” Bridges said. “This year away I’ve used to prioritize going to therapy and becoming the best person I can be — someone that my family and everyone here can be proud of.”
Following a lengthy investigation, the NBA handed down a 30-game suspension earlier this offseason, but determined that he’ll only miss 10 games to start the upcoming season after giving him credit for 20 games served after sitting out 82 games last season.
Bridges thanked the Hornets organization and the NBA for giving him a second chance, adding that “a lot of people don’t get a second chance, and I want to use this second chance to prove to everyone that I’m the same kid you drafted five years ago.”
Hornets general manager Mitch Kupchak said outgoing majority owner Michael Jordan and incoming owners Gabe Plotkin and Rick Schnall gave unanimous approval to re-sign Bridges.
Kupchak said that decision was based on separate investigations by the NBA and the Los Angeles Police Department, as well as the team’s personal five-year relationship with Bridges. Bridges was drafted in the first round in 2018 and has played four seasons in Charlotte.
“You have to make a judgment, right?” Kupchak said. “Is this sincere remorse? Is this sincere accountability? It is not something that is easy to judge. We took all of those factors into consideration and ultimately gave him a second chance.”
Kupchak said he realizes that decision may not sit well with some fans.
“Obviously it is a polarizing topic,” Kupchak said. “Everybody may not agree. It’s a tough situation to be in.”
Bridges said he understands he’ll need to regain the trust of everyone involved, from fans to teammates to members of the Hornets organization.
“Yes, I understand that some people don’t think I deserve a second chance,” Bridges said. “That’s why I am trying to use this year to prove to everybody the person that I am. Who is Miles Bridges? It’s not what people think he is.”
Added Kupchak: “He understands that even though his teammates are happy to have him back, there is some trust that needs to be earned back.”
Bridges declined to get into specifics, other than to say he continues to attend therapy and has a good relationship with his young children.
Bridges’ NBA career took an abrupt turn last summer.
After a career season in 2021-22 in which he averaged a team-high 20.2 points and seven rebounds, Bridges appeared likely to sign a multiyear contract worth more than $100 million as a restricted free agent. But just days before the start of free agency, the mother of his children posted graphic photos and descriptions of alleged physical abuse by Bridges on her Instagram account.
He was charged with three counts of felony domestic violence days later.
The big contract offer never came, and Bridges did not play at all last season as the NBA opened an investigation.
By signing the Hornets’ qualifying offer, Bridges is eligible to become an unrestricted free agent next summer, giving him more flexibility in his next destination.
The Hornets will still have Bridges’ Bird rights, which gives them a competitive advantage over other teams because of their ability to offer him a longer contract worth more money. Bridges said Tuesday he’d like to remain with the Hornets.
But Kupchak said that will be a discussion for another day.
“We will have to wait to see how that plays out,” Kupchak said. “From a basketball point of view, putting aside the serious nature of what took place, we are excited to have him back. He had his best year ever two years ago. Whatever it is we have to deal with a year from now, we will deal with it a year from now.”
Charlotte recently selected forward Brandon Miller from Alabama with the No. 2 pick in the NBA draft, and he could serve as an eventual replacement for Bridges.