LOS ANGELES— Guard J.R. Smith will be joining the Los Angeles Lakers for the NBA’s season restart in Orlando, Florida, the team announced Wednesday, July 1.
Smith, a 15-year veteran, will be expected to round out the Lakers backcourt and add depth to the bench as a two-player. Discussions before Smith’s signing arose after a roster spot opened up when starting guard Avery Bradley announced on July 23 that he would not play for the remainder of the season.
Bradley opted out of season restart to remain with his family. His oldest son Liam, 6, has a history of struggling to recover from respiratory illnesses, making him unlikely to enter the NBA’s bubble.
Smith brings veteran-playoff experience that includes an NBA Championship with the Cleveland Cavaliers from when he played alongside current Laker LeBron James in 2016 on their way to the finals. Smith also boasts a Sixth-Man of the Year honors after winning the award while playing for the New York Knicks in 2013.
However, Smith’s most recent playoff antics proved to be costly during one of his last appearances. In-game one of the 2018 NBA Finals, Smith infamously dribbled out the clock during regulation after securing an offensive rebound with only seconds left. The game was tied, but Smith did not attempt to look towards the basket and take a shot. The Golden State Warriors went on to win game one and sweep the series 4-0 on their way to their third title in four years.
Drafted by New Orleans in 2004, the 15-year journeyman has been absent from the NBA since November 2018, when the Cavaliers opted to not play the guard until they came to a solution over his contract situation. Smith was eventually released during the offseason afterward and had remained a free agent since. Smith also played for the Denver Nuggets at one point in his career.
Smith could potentially make his first NBA appearance in nearly two years when the Lakers tip-off against their crosstown rival, the Clippers, at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in the Walt Disney World Resort. Fellow Laker guards Kentavious Caldwell Pope and Alex Caruso, however are expected to take on the brunt of Bradley’s minutes in his absence.
Smith averages 12.5 points for his career to go along with 3.2 rebounds and 2.1 assists.