J.R. Smith

Lakers Notes: Davis, LeBron, Bryant, Smith

Anthony Davis, the Lakers‘ prize addition last offseason, may be on the verge of winning the Finals MVP award, writes Mark Medina of USA Today. L.A. is getting the type of production from Davis that it envisioned when it sent a package of young talent to New Orleans to acquire him in June of 2019.

Davis turned in a dominant performance in Wednesday’s Game 1 with 34 points — the fourth-highest total by any player in his Finals debut since the merger — along with nine rebounds, five assists and three blocks. He followed that with 32 points and 14 rebounds Friday night.

“He’s damn near playing like the best player in the game,” said teammate Rajon Rondo. “Hands down. I’m very fortunate he’s on our team this year.”

There’s more on the Lakers:

  • Fans who remember the uneasy relationship between Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal don’t have to worry about a repeat with Davis and LeBron James, Medina adds in the same story. James, who played a role in convincing Davis to seek a trade to L.A., told reporters last night that there’s no jealousy between the two stars. “We want the best, seriously, every single day, both on and off the floor, for one another,” he said. “We’re just not jealous of one another. I think that you align that with respect, I think the sky’s the limit.”
  • Long before he joined the Lakers, Davis received valuable lessons from Bryant, notes Ramona Shelburne of ESPN. Davis was only 19 when he earned a spot on the 2012 U.S. Olympic team, where Bryant took him under his wing. They stayed in touch regularly over the years, but Bryant never made a sales pitch to try to get Davis to the Lakers.
  • J.R. Smith hasn’t seen much court time in the playoffs, but he may have an increased role if Danny Green‘s hip remains a concern, according to Tania Ganguli of The Los Angeles Times“Danny was battling a hip injury, and you know, he and KCP (Kentavious Caldwell-Pope) were playing well, but were struggling a little bit from the perimeter,” coach Frank Vogel said after Game 2. “So was just looking to see if we can buy a few minutes with J.R. because of Danny’s injuries, and obviously he carries that threat to knock down a three or a few threes. I just like the threat of him being out there against the zone.”

Western Notes: Porzingis, Lakers, Warriors, Eliyahu

Mavericks star forward Kristaps Porzingis was a late scratch for Game 4 of the first-round series against the Los Angeles Clippers on Sunday. He’s listed as questionable for Tuesday’s pivotal Game 5 and will likely be a game-time decision, according to ESPN’s Tim MacMahon. An MRI revealed no structural damage to Porzingis’ knee.

“Look, a lot of this is going to be hour-to-hour, minute-to-minute type stuff, probably into the later stages of tomorrow,” Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle said.

We have more from around the Western Conference:

  • The Lakers’ guard rotation is still in flux, Anthony Slater of The Athletic notes. J.R. Smith hasn’t shown much while getting playing time the last two playoff games. A longer look at Dion Waiters may be warranted, according to Slater, at least until Rajon Rondo returns. Rondo was supposed to play in Game 3 on Saturday but was a late scratch due to back spasms.
  • The Warriors saved some money by getting the No. 2 pick in the draft lottery rather than the top spot. They’ll save approximately $4MM toward the luxury tax for next season, if the rookie scale remains the same, ESPN’s Bobby Marks tweets.
  • The Warriors hold the rights to Israeli forward Lior Eliyahu but he’s retiring, Sportando’s Alessandro Maggi relays. He won several championships overseas during his career and played most recently of Maccabi Ashdod. Eliyahu, 34, was drafted in the second round by Magic in 2006 and his rights were traded numerous times.

Vogel On Rondo, Starters, Waiters, Smith

Though the Lakers suffered a surprising 100-93 loss to the Trail Blazers in the first game of their conference quarterfinals series on Tuesday, head coach Frank Vogel has indicated that he will not make any adjustments to his current starting lineup ahead of tonight’s second “home” game, according to Tania Ganguli of the Los Angeles Times (Twitter link).

On Tuesday, the Lakers started All-Star forwards LeBron James and Anthony Davis, along with center JaVale McGee, and guards Danny Green and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope.

McGee played just 12 minutes on Tuesday. Backup power forward Kyle Kuzma, meanwhile, logged 30 minutes of game action, with Davis shifting to a center role when playing alongside Kuzma. Point guard Alex Caruso played 29 minutes off the bench, the same amount of time as Caldwell-Pope and six more minutes than sharpshooter Green.

Backup center Dwight Howard and power forward Markieff Morris also logged more time than McGee, a solid post defender without much offensive range. Starting Davis at center, with either Kuzma or Caruso replacing McGee in the starting lineup, could present a unique opportunity for the Lakers to spread the floor against Portland.

Backup point guard Rajon Rondo, who has been recovering from a fractured right thumb suffered five weeks ago, will remain inactive for tonight’s game. Rondo was medically cleared for action on August 17. Rondo had the thumb surgically repaired on July 16. He has yet to suit up for the Lakers during the team’s summer games.

Vogel also noted that he will find playing time for recent waiver additions Dion Waiters and J.R. Smith, per Mark Medina of USA Today (Twitter link). In the first game of the series, Waiters saw the court for just one minute, and took no field goal attempts, while Smith did not play at all.

Western Notes: DeRozan, Payne, Booker, J.R. Smith

After the Spurs‘ victory on Tuesday night over the Rockets, veteran guard DeMar DeRozan was asked about his future with the organization. The 31-year-old guard has a $27.7MM player option for the 2020/21 season.

The former first-round pick did not go into much detail about his future with the Spurs and instead focused on the current task at hand.

“My mindset is always, I am here, I am living in the moment and continue to build with these (young) guys,” he said (h/t Tom Osborn of the San-Antonio Express-News). “I am just trying to go out there and get us to a playoff spot.”

Back in March, one report suggested that the 31-year-old guard was not happy about his situation with the Spurs. However, his $27.7MM option will be tough to pass up in what may be a limited free agent market.

Here’s more from around the Western Conference:

  • Bryan Kalbrosky of HoopsHype examined how recently-signed combo guard Cameron Payne has helped the undefeated Suns in the bubble. In the seeding games, Payne is averaging 10.8 PPG, 4.0 RPG, and 3.2 APG. He is also shooting an astonishing 50 percent from three-point range. Kalbrosky points out that Payne’s ability to create his own shot as of the reasons for his success on the court.
  • All-Star guard Devin Booker has the Suns on the cusp of making the playoffs for the first time since 2010, writes Duane Rankin of the Arizona Republic. Booker understands the magnitude of Thursday’s game and is looking forward to the challenge. “I know it’s a different format than what it’d be usually, but we can feel the energy,” he said. “We can feel the hype of the game. I’m looking forward to it.” For the Suns to get into the play-in game, they need to beat the Mavs and hope that either Memphis or Portland loses.
  • Lakers guard J.R. Smith spoke at length about his road back to the NBA with Kyle Goon of the Southern California NewsGroup. The 34-year-old sharpshooter discussed the role his father, Earl Smith Jr. played in getting him back to the league. “If you ain’t gonna play, now you gotta find something to do,” Earl said he told J.R. “I thought, ‘Get your ass in shape, go to L.A. Do your thing.” Smith has not played often in the team’s seeding games in Orlando but could be a key player in the postseason.

J.R. Smith Talks Changes In LeBron James

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.”

California Notes: MCW, Clippers, Kings, Smith, Waiters

The Warriors will need to consider free agent backup point guard candidates during their upcoming offseason. Since Golden State will be stretched thin due to some exorbitant contracts to the team’s top four players, The Athletic’s Anthony Slater makes the case for 28-year-old injury-prone non-shooter Michael Carter-Williams, an unrestricted free agent, on a league minimum.

Carter-Williams, a career 40.3% shooter from the floor (and a 25.6% shooter from deep), has logged time with the Sixers, Bucks, Bulls, Hornets, Rockets and Magic in his seven NBA seasons. Slater lauds the 6’5″ guard’s size and notes that his three-point shooting has improved with Orlando, adding that he was a +27 in his time on the floor during the Magic’s three road games, all wins, before the NBA season pause on March 11. For 2019/20, Carter-Williams is shooting a below-average 29.4% from long range, which would be his career-high over a full season.

There are more updates out of California:

  • The Clippers are using their practices in the NBA’s Disney World campus to fully integrate recent additions Marcus Morris, Reggie Jackson and Joakim Noah, per Mirjam Swanson of the Orange County Register. “It’s pretty much we know who we want to play, but as far as the rotations and the minutes, I think that’s still a little bit in flux,” head coach Doc Rivers noted. “We’ll see. You kind of decide on what you’re going to do going by how you’re practicing.”
  • With several Kings players currently unavailable, rookies Justin James, Kyle Guy and DaQuan Jeffries will be able to use team practices and scrimmages in Disney World as an opportunity to prove their mettle, according to The Athletic’s Jason Jones. Sacramento head coach Luke Walton noted that the young players are “getting crucial reps in practice and most likely, at least in the preseason (scrimmage) games, they’ll be getting some meaningful minutes as well.”
  • Newly-minted Lakers wings J.R. Smith and Dion Waiters have been using their Orlando campus tenure to bond with their L.A. teammates, per Kyle Goon of the Orange County Register. Head coach Frank Vogel commended the team’s new backcourt additions with helping to stoke everyone’s competitive fire. “They both bring toughness and swag — those guys are killers,” Vogel said. “They go after it with great competitive spirit and they have the talent to back it up and be highly productive on the court.”

Lakers Notes: LeBron, Smith, Bradley, Rondo

The stakes are high for LeBron James as the NBA season moves closer to restarting, writes Scott Cacciola of The New York Times. At age 35 and with a fourth championship possibly in reach, the Lakers star will have a chance to significantly add to his legacy.

Teammates say James maintained his leadership role through the nearly four-month hiatus, offering advice on group chats regarding topics such as gyms that were available for workouts and opportunities to speak out about social justice. He also stayed in top physical condition in preparation for a playoff run.

“He’s in the gym early, he’s leaving late and he’s the last guy working — and probably working the longest and the hardest,” Danny Green said. “He hasn’t changed at all, man.”

There’s more Lakers news to pass along:

  • Veteran guard J.R. Smith, who signed with the Lakers last week, said the coaching staff has given him a clearly defined role, Cacciola adds in the same piece. Smith was instructed to “shoot the ball at a high level” and concentrate on defense, leaving the playmaking duties to others. “It’s fortunate,” he said, “because I’ve never been the guy who was really trying to set up guys.”
  • Even though Avery Bradley opted out of the restart, he will receive a championship ring if the Lakers win the title, according to Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports. Bradley, the only player from a serious title contender to pass on playing in Orlando, made the decision because of health concerns involving his six-year-old son. “Will I accept the ring? I’m neither here nor there about it,” he said. “I am 10 years in this league. The physical possession of a ring doesn’t make me feel like more or less of a person. I play basketball strictly for enjoyment and to add to the support of my family. Supporting them is exactly what I’m doing right now.”
  • Rajon Rondo is sporting an impressive physique in a Lakers practice video that has been circulating on social media, notes Austin Boyd of Heavy. The 34-year-old guard is notably leaner and stronger than when the season was suspended in March.

Pacific Notes: Bagley, Oubre, Warriors, Smith

Kings big man Marvin Bagley, who has been limited by various injuries throughout his first two NBA seasons, has indicated that he feels vastly improved and is ready for the season restart in Orlando, per James Ham of NBC Sports Bay Area (Twitter link).

“I’m doing great,” Bagley said. “I’m 100%.” Bagley has been hampered by a broken thumb and a left foot sprain. He has logged time in only 13 games for the Kings this season.

There’s more out of the Pacific Division:

  • During a media call on Monday, Suns general manager James Jones did not rule out the prospect of Kelly Oubre Jr. to join his teammates for the league’s Orlando restart, according to Duane Rankin of the Arizona Republic. Oubre, the team’s starting small forward, underwent an arthroscopic surgery on his right knee for a torn meniscus on March 3 and is reportedly expected to remain sidelined through the summer.
  • Oubre, who will be an unrestricted free agent in the 2021/22 season, could be an appealing trade target for the Warriors, according to Anthony Slater of The Athletic. Slater assesses the Suns forward’s fit with Golden State. The contracts would line up nicely: Oubre is owed $14.2MM in 2020/21, and the Warriors have a $17.2MM trade exception on their books as a result of their Andre Iguodala trade last summer.
  • New Lakers wing J.R. Smith, signed to bolster the team’s depth as a replacement for Avery Bradley, notes that he struggled with depression during the 20-month interim between his last NBA job (with the Cavaliers) and this one, according to Kyle Goon of the Orange County Register. “Being somebody who has been around the league predominately for most of their adult life, when that’s kind of taken away from you, it kind of gives you that culture shock and you obviously don’t understand what you lost until it’s gone,” Smith said.

Lakers Notes: Howard, Vogel, Smith, Pelinka

The Lakers still aren’t sure if Dwight Howard will join them in Orlando, but his name will be on the roster the team must submit today, writes Dave McMenamin of ESPN. The veteran center has been a vocal critic of the NBA’s restart plan and is dealing with off-court issues as well. Still, coach Frank Vogel said today on a conference call that Howard has expressed a desire to play.

“We’ve been in communication with Dwight the whole way,” Vogel told reporters. “We don’t know what the level of participation is yet. He wants to play. We’re hopeful he’s able to join us. We’re hopeful and optimistic that he’ll be able to join us in Orlando.”

Howard is in Georgia with his family, according to a league source, and is complying with the league’s home quarantine and testing protocol. He is taking care of his six-year-old son, whose mother died in March.

There’s more Lakers news to pass along:

  • Vogel doesn’t expect J.R. Smith to take over Avery Bradley‘s role, but the coach believes Smith can help the Lakers in other ways, McMenamin adds in the same piece. “In terms of what he brings to the table, just the experience factor,” Vogel said. “I mean, this guy is a big-time player. He’s proven it over the course of his career. … We almost added him earlier in the year when we added Dion Waiters and now we have the luxury of having both. We’re not going to ask him to come in and be Avery Bradley. He’s going to come in and be J.R. Smith. He’s going to just fill that position, more than fill that role.”
  • Smith didn’t participate in today’s opening of training camp, and Vogel has only had a brief conversation with the veteran guard, according to Kyle Goon of The Orange County Register. Vogel admitted that Smith’s prior experience playing alongside LeBron James factored into the signing. “His familiarity with LeBron and the way we built our team, obviously, around LeBron, there’s a lot of similarities to the things they did in Cleveland,” Vogel said. “That definitely is a factor in what we feel like JR can bring to the table in what is going to be a very short time to get acclimated.”
  • GM Rob Pelinka believes the restart will be “as much of a mental test as it is a physical test” because of the unusual circumstances, McMenamin writes in a separate story. After a layoff of roughly four months, teams will have to rediscover their chemistry quickly to deal with a condensed schedule. “I think a team like ours, that has such a strong togetherness component, will have an advantage at that part,” Pelinka said. “This team of guys love being together and love playing together. I think that’s the significant part of the (first) 63 games.”

Lakers Sign Veteran Guard J.R. Smith

JULY 1, 12:45pm: Smith has officially signed a contract with the team, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski tweets.

JUNE 29, 11:10am: The Lakers are expected to finalize a rest-of-season contract with free agent shooting guard J.R. Smith this week, league sources tell Marc Stein of The New York Times (Twitter link). According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (via Twitter), Smith and the Lakers are working through the final steps of a deal today.

Smith, 34, didn’t play in the NBA at all this season, but worked out for the Lakers in March before the league went on hiatus due to the coronavirus pandemic. When word broke last week that Avery Bradley was voluntarily opting out of the NBA’s restart, Smith was immediately identified as a leading candidate to replace him on L.A.’s summer roster.

Smith last played in the NBA in 2018/19, appearing in just 11 games for the Cavaliers before being waived in November of that season. In ’17/18, his last full season, he was a solid role player in Cleveland, averaging 8.3 PPG and 2.9 RPG with a .375 3PT% in 80 games (28.1 MPG).

As a substitute player, Smith will receive a rest-of-season, minimum-salary contract that won’t count against the Lakers’ cap. It will pay him just shy of $290K, which represents 20/177ths of the usual $2,564,753 minimum salary for a player with 10+ years of NBA service. He’ll be an unrestricted free agent after the season and L.A. won’t hold any form of Bird rights on him this fall.

Even with Bradley out, it’s not clear that Smith will actually see much action this summer. However, he becomes the latest intriguing character to join the Lakers’ depth chart on the wing — the team signed veteran shooting guard Dion Waiters shortly before play was suspended in March.

Assuming no other Lakers players voluntarily opt out of the resumption of the season, the club won’t have the ability to make another addition without cutting someone. Currently, all 17 roster spots are filled, with two-way players Devontae Cacok and Kostas Antetokounmpo joining the 15 players on standard contracts.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.