When Avery Bradley notified the Los Angeles Lakers he would not be participating in the 2019-20 season’s restart, the front office quickly pivoted to sign JR Smith.
Smith, who last played with the Cleveland Cavaliers during the beginning of the 2018-19 season, had been staying in shape waiting for a call. Fortunately for him, Los Angeles needed a guard to supplement their roster prior to their departure to Orlando.
The veteran guard was signed for the remainder of the season and that solely is what his focus is on. “For me, I just take it a day at a time, literally a breath at a time. I’ve been out for a while and being in an (NBA) environment is so refreshing and much needed,” Smith answered when asked if there had been any discussions about his future with the Lakers.
“So I try not to focus on that part and try to take it day by day and enjoy the moment as much as I can. At the end of the day I was gone for a while and being someone who’s been in the league for much of their adult life, when that’s taken away it gives you a culture shock. You don’t really understand what you’ve lost until it’s gone.
“So for me, more than anything, I want to appreciate the moment for what it is. Whether it be next year or never again, I just want to enjoy every possible moment I get.”
Smith and the Cavaliers mutually agreed to part ways once it was clear the franchise was heading in a different direction, and it was an open question as to whether or not the 34-year-old would get another shot in the NBA. However, with a roster spot opening it was an easy decision to make for Lakers vice president of basketball operations Rob Pelinka given the makeup of the roster and Smith’s strengths.
During his time with Cleveland, Smith was a valuable spot-up shooter who could also generate offense in a pinch. He also showed he can be a solid defender when engaged, something that is arguably of more importance given Bradley’s role on the team.
Regarding Smith’s future, it is too early to tell whether or not he will be on the roster for the 2020-21 season as he has not even seen the floor yet. However, a productive showing in Orlando could persuade the front office to keep him around longer which could be something to look out for once games officially begin.
Dark days now in the past
As days passed and Smith remained a free agent, the prospect of potentially having played his last NBA game became difficult to handle. “I went through a very depressed state for a long time. It lasted for a few months,” Smith recalled.
“I’m a big video gamer and I didn’t even want to play 2K anymore. I didn’t want to hoop, didn’t want to work out, didn’t want to play 2K or do anything with basketball. I went through depression because something that I loved and enjoyed for so long was gone.
“It was extremely tough. Fortunately, I’ve got a great foundation with my parents. My dad has always been on me about what I’ve accomplished and still have left in the tank. If it wasn’t for them I would probably still be in that situation.”
Now Smith is enjoying his time with the Lakers in Orlando, even if he was told to stop broadcasting on Instagram live their first night there.
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