CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Charlotte Hornets forward Miles Bridges is “looking forward” to returning to the NBA, saying it feels “like the first day of school.”
Bridges is scheduled to return to the court on Friday night for the first time in 583 days against the Milwaukee Bucks for a game in the NBA’s intraseason tournament after missing all of last season and receiving a 10-game suspension this year for his role in a domestic violence case in 2022
Bridges’ return comes even as he faces trial for allegedly violating a protection order stemming from a domestic violence incident that derailed his NBA career more than 16 months ago.
The hearing date was set for Monday, but was postponed to February 20, 2024.
He declined to comment on the matter because it is ongoing.
“Basketball has been my sanctuary and being away from it for a year was quite difficult for me, so I’m glad to be back,” Bridges said after Thursday’s practice.
The NBA confirmed to The Associated Press that it is allowing Bridges to play pending the outcome of the court case.
The Hornets released a statement Thursday before practice saying, “We are not comfortable with Miles returning to play based on our current knowledge of the facts arising from the recent allegations and we remain in contact with the NBA as the matter progresses through the courts.” .
The league handed Bridges a 30-game suspension this summer, but he was given a 20-game suspension after playing all 82 games last season.
Bridges, 25, was expected to be a huge addition to Charlotte, which was 3-7 in his absence at the start of the season.
He is considered one of the team’s best players and has noticeable and sometimes electrifying chemistry with point guard LaMelo Ball.
Hornets head coach Steve Clifford said he won’t make a decision until Friday whether Bridges will start against the Bucks, but confirmed he will play a lot.
“He worked really hard, but you don’t know because it’s not easy not to play a game after such a long time,” Clifford said. “It may take a while, but he did everything he could to give himself a good chance to play well at the beginning of the match. He’s in really good shape and doing a lot more. He worked very hard.”
It may take some time for the former Michigan State standout to shake off the rust, as he last played for the Hornets on April 12, 2022, coming off a season in which he led the team in scoring with 20.2 points per game.
In the summer of 2022, Bridges appeared poised for a contract worth more than $100 million as a restricted free agent, but days before free agency began, he was arrested and charged in Los Angeles with multiple counts of domestic violence.
In November, Bridges entered a motion for mistrial on the felony domestic violence charge, and the remaining charges against him were dismissed.
The Hornets re-signed Bridges to a one-year, $7.9 million contract over the summer, but allegations recently surfaced that he violated the terms of a restraining order and turned himself in to Lincoln County police on Oct. 13. Bridges appeared before a district court judge and was released on $1,000 bail.
Court documents say Bridges “unlawfully” and “knowingly” violated the protection order and had “continuous contact with the victim.”
Bridges said he wasn’t sure what kind of reception he would get from the Spectrum Center crowd, but said he felt he deserved another chance because “I know what type of person I am.”
“I know a lot of people have (certain) opinions about my return and I understand that. Like I said before, I have to regain their trust,” Bridges said. “I go out there to play and if I can get us more wins, I feel like people’s perspective will change on me a little bit. I try to go out on the pitch and help the team as much as I can. “