The LeBron James-JR Smith reunion is apparently finally going to happen. There’s been speculation that the Los Angeles Lakers have had an interest in Smith for months, but they never pulled the trigger on a deal. However, with the news that Avery Bradley won’t be playing in the NBA reboot, the team needed to replace him.
According to NBA insider Marc Stein, the Lakers have decided to sign Smith to replace Bradley.
The Lakers, league sources say, are expected to finalize a rest-of-the-season contract with J.R. Smith before Tuesday's 11:59 PM ET closure of the NBA's "transaction window"
Rosters for the NBA restart at Walt Disney World must be turned in to the league office Wednesday
— Marc Stein (@TheSteinLine) June 29, 2020
This news shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise. The Lakers worked Smith out months ago and the veteran has been seen in Los Angeles over the last few weeks. He’s also got a strong relationship with James, which probably sealed the deal for him. With the signing of Smith, the Lakers get a veteran sharpshooter with championship experience. His blunder in the 2018 NBA Finals has stuck with him, but he’ll have a real shot to redeem himself this season.
Will Smith Start?
While Smith will no doubt be excited about getting another shot on an NBA team, there’s a reason the Lakers took their time in signing him. They are probably not supremely confident he could be a difference-maker. That said, he’s capable of making a few big shots and he’s just another strong veteran presence on the team.
He will likely be coming off the bench unless he blows the team away. The Lakers went 13-1 without Bradley last season and that was with Kentavious Caldwell-Pope starting. That’s not to say that Caldwell-Pope is an upgrade over Bradley but it is to say that the team can still manage without him.
Alex Caruso is another possibility at starter as he’s played really well with LeBron James. The Lakers might have to experiment a bit once the season comes back as the loss of Bradley could be a big blow come playoff time. That said, it will probably end with Smith coming off the bench.
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What’s Dwight Howard’s Status?
After being vocal about his position on the NBA’s return, Dwight Howard has stayed relatively quiet recently. The veteran big man raised concerns about playing basketball while he believes there is work to be done with social justice. Though his playing status has come into question, there have been reports that indicated he could still want to play despite his apprehension.
Also, the Lakers posted a picture about the team returning and Howard was included in the picture while Bradley was not. That could mean that right now, the big man is planning on playing. However, he could change his mind. If that was the case, it wouldn’t be as big of a blow as losing Bradley. Howard has been efficient, but he’s playing limited minutes off the bench. If he decides to stay out, the Lakers could try to change DeMarcus Cousins’ mind about returning. He apparently decided against it, but his agent later came out and said he’s still making up his mind. Without Howard, Cousins could find it appealing to come back to the purple and gold.