As the Lakers prepare to contend for a title at the NBA campus in Orlando, J.R. Smith will try to help L.A. after joining the team in early July. Although Smith has not played in over a year, he brings championship experience and an ability to score.
Specifically, Smith’s title pedigree comes from his time as a teammate with LeBron James in Cleveland when the organization captured its first title in 2016. Smith played a crucial role in guiding the Cavaliers to a championship behind James and now, reunited with a different team, the former Sixth Man of the Year sees a change in his former and current teammate.
“Before, he’s always been so focused on his drive and winning and stuff like that, but I feel like that pressure is off his shoulders, and he can just be him,” Smith said, per Spectrum’s Mike Trudell (Twitter link). “He don’t have to try to orchestrate the offense or the defense or what somebody did wrong, he can let the coaches do their job, and I think that’s a true testament to him growing.”
Smith, 34, joins the Lakers in a much different role than the last time he was teammates with James, but with the same goal — winning a championship. The Lakers will need to rely on steady play from their bench and the usual strong performance from James. Smith views an older, more experienced LeBron as more than capable of delegating to others on the team.
“I’ve watched interviews when people try to say he’s not coachable because he knows so much about the game, but he’s probably the most coachable person out there just because he gives you his side or his opinion and he might be right,” Smith said. “More than anything I just think he’s so much more patient in his delivery and how he goes about the process of the game.”