J.R. Smith Will Join the Los Angeles Lakers for the Rest of the Season

The veteran shooting guard joins LeBron James for another playoff run

J.R. Smith and Lebron James
J.R. Smith and LeBron James hope to continue the postseason success they've had together.
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By Jack Tien-Dana / June 30, 2020 6:30 am

J.R. Smith is the patron saint of the basketball internet. A Hennessey-chugging, pipe-laying, soup-throwing administrator of street justice, he’s become one of the most beloved role players in NBA history. At his best, he’s a former Sixth Man of the Year who’s made more three-pointers in the Finals than Michael Jordan, Ray Allen and Kobe Bryant; at his worst, his brain farts are galactically smelly and loud. Now, after spending the bulk of the last two years out of the NBA, he’s the newest member of the Los Angeles Lakers, finalizing a deal to join the team for the season’s restart in Orlando.

Like all things related to J.R. Smith, his deal with the Lakers straddles meme and common sense. Since Avery Bradley is sitting out the rest of the season to protect his family, the Lakers need J.R. Smith on a very basic level. Without Bradley — who started 44 games and provided the mix of shooting and persistent, if slightly overrated, defense — the Lakers have a sizable hole in their wing rotation that Smith hypothetically fills. In Cleveland, Smith was a dependable sidekick to LeBron James, offering a jolt of scoring dynamism and gamely trying on defense; for the Lakers, the hope is that Smith continues his excellent shooting and has enough positional size and versatility that he can hold his own on defense. What’s more, Smith, a close friend of James’s, is a more natural fit with the Lakers than any other free agent on the market.

But also: he’s J.R. Smith. Besides the ever-dependable Danny Green, the Lakers’ wing rotation now consists of Dion Waiters (who overdosed on edibles on a Miami Heat team flight last fall), Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (who is the only player in NBA history to have worn a legally mandated ankle monitor during games) and J.R. Smith (who is J.R. Smith). Beyond the potential that the Lakers’ entire cadre of shooting guard might skip a game to watch the Emperor’s New Groove together, it’s an open-ended question whether Smith is still actually any good; in his last full season in 2017-2018, Smith was probably already a liability —a nd that was before amassing 20 months of rust. While adding Smith might not have been the smartest choice, it’s by far the most fun one. And, in a sense, aren’t the real championships the friends we make along the way?

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