The Los Angeles Lakers are back and while they won’t have Avery Bradley, they’ll be bringing in JR Smith. It’s not an ideal swap as Bradley was one of the Lakers’ top contributors before the season was suspended. However, Smith is a seasoned veteran who has a good rapport with LeBron James.
Head coach Frank Vogel has one of the toughest coaching jobs this season. He’s got championship expectations, but just lost one his starters and is dealing with unprecedented circumstances. Regardless, he’s excited about Smith can bring to the table.
“The experience factor,” Vogel said about Smith. “This guy’s a big-time player, he’s proven it over the course of his career. We know he can help us. 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 JR Smith.”
Smith has a lot of experience and a championship under his belt. Though he’s not going to come in and be an All-Star, he’s a good shooter who can give the team some points off the bench.
Vogel Isn’t Dwelling on Bradley Loss
The biggest thing about losing Bradley is that the Lakers lose one of their best defenders and three-point shooters. However, Vogel is trying to take the loss in stride and believes the team has capable backup options.
“Avery’s loss is obviously a huge loss for us, but we’re a next-man-up team,” Vogel said. “Alex is an elite defender in his own right in a different way than Avery, as is KCP. Offensively, clearly we wouldn’t run plays that Avery uses for Alex, we’d run plays that put Alex in the best position to succeed.”
Clearly, Vogel has to make some big adjustments and it sounds like either Alex Caruso or Kentavious Caldwell-Pope will get the starting nod in place of Bradley.
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Vogel Talks Approach to Playoffs
Due to the fact that the Lakers haven’t played in months and they lost a starter, the team will have to iron things out. Fortunately, as a one seed, Los Angeles will have some time against weaker competition to work out some kinks.
“We do have a different type of perspective from some teams that are playing for their playoff lives, but it doesn’t mean we’re not going to go out and – like we always would if these were the last eight games of the regular season – we would compete to win,” Vogel said. “That’s how your habits are built the best … Does that mean we’re going to play certain guys 47 minutes? Obviously no.
“We’ll be intelligent with the whole process of trying to find the right pace to bring our group along from a conditioning standpoint and evaluating on a daily basis what we feel they can handle and what they’re ready for without compromising their bodies and putting them at risk to injury. We will be cautious with those eight games, but we will compete to win.”
The eight games before the playoffs aren’t too important for the Lakers as they have a big lead in the Western Conference. However, it will be important to get the players ready for playoff action. It’ll be very interesting to see how Vogel uses his starters in those eight games.