The Los Angeles Lakers received the news on Tuesday night that starting guard Avery Bradley would not be joining the team in Orlando. However, they already have a replacement in mind.
With Bradley deciding to stay with his family as his youngest son, Liam, recovers from respiratory illnesses, the Lakers are reportedly eyeing former LeBron James teammate JR Smith as a replacement, per multiple sources.
“Lakers president of basketball operations Rob Pelinka and Smith’s agent, Rich Paul of Klutch Sports, were discussing a possible agreement Tuesday night and were expected to speak again Wednesday,” ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported on Tuesday.
James won the NBA title with Smith while in Cleveland in 2016. He’d give the Lakers another 3-point shooter in their arsenal and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope would likely move into the starting lineup in the absence of Bradley.
For his career, Smith is shooting 37.3 percent from 3-point range and averages 12.5 points per game. However, he only played in 11 games as a member of the Cavaliers during the 2018-19 season and hasn’t played in the NBA this season.
Lakers Signed Dion Waiters Before Hiatus
The Lakers signed Dion Waiters just before the NBA hiatus, but he has not played a game with the team. Both Waiters and Smith impressed the Lakers at their workouts during the season, but the team only had one roster spot available.
Waiters averages 13.2 for his career and was the No. 4 overall pick in 2012 out of Syracuse.
“He’s definitely a player that can help us,” Lakers head coach Frank Vogel said shortly after the team signed Waiters. “He’s got the ability to put the ball on the floor and attack from the wing position. He can play off the ball with his catch-and-shoot game as well. He’s an athletic, tough defender. He’s definitely someone that can help us.”
Smith should fit seamlessly into the Lakers team chemistry. He appears to still have a solid friendship with James and was spotted biking in Los Angeles with both LeBron and fellow Lakers star Anthony Davis last month.
Any player the Lakers sign with be on a prorated minimum salary and it can only be for one season, per ESPN’s Bobby Marks. The NBA transaction window is open from June 23-30.
Avery Bradley Had Questioned NBA Restart
Bradley has started 44 games for the Lakers this season, averaging 8.6 points and providing a solid defensive presence. Along with Nets guard Kyrie Irving, Bradley had served as a leader in a players coalition questioning the NBA restarting in Orlando, saying its a time to stand up on social issues.
“Regardless of how much media coverage will be received, talking and raising awareness about social injustice isn’t enough,” Bradley told ESPN last week. “Are we that self-centered to believe no one in the world is aware of racism right now? That, as athletes, we solve the real issues by using our platforms to speak?
“We don’t need to say more. We need to find a way to achieve more. Protesting during an anthem, wearing T-shirts is great, but we need to see real actions being put in to the works.”
While social causes will still be on his mind, Bradley released a statement following the report that he would be sitting out, explaining his reasoning further.
“As committed to my Lakers teammates and the organization as I am, I ultimately play basketball for my family. And so, at a time like this, I can’t imagine making any decision that might put my family’s health and well-being at even the slightest risk.
“As promised also, I will use this time away to focus on the formation of projects to help strengthen my communities.”
Dwight Howard is another Laker weighing his options, but is expected to play. Lakers veteran wing Danny Green stressed recently that the team wanted to stay united in their championship campaign.
“I think it’s just important that we’re together. Obviously we’re going to need Avery Bradley, we’re going to need Dwight Howard to be playing for us to have a chance,” Danny Green told retired NBAer Caron Butler. “But I think it’s important that we stay healthy — and not just our team, but the league. Everybody that’s in the league has to have a unified front on what we’re going to do and speak with one voice.”
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