The final addition to the Los Angeles Lakers roster before they traveled to Walt Disney World for the conclusion of this season was veteran guard JR Smith. With Avery Bradley opting not to join the team due to health concerns for his son, the Lakers turned to Smith, whom they had worked out previously.
There are some concerns for Smith as he has played just 11 games over the past two seasons and went un-signed throughout the entire 2020 season up to this point. But what Smith does bring is excellent shooting and championship experience as he has toed the front line next to LeBron James.
Though the Lakers are very different than the 2016 Cleveland Cavaliers, Smith has a good idea of what’s in store for him in regards to James. “I know how ‘Bron can get pissed at me,” Smith said.
“There’s people who don’t know how to deal with it. As we’ve all seen in the M.J. doc, people were so hard on M.J. because he was so hard on his teammates and stuff like that. With LeBron it’s different.
“Obviously he’s doing everything he wants to win, and it kind of comes off in the wrong way sometimes. You need to be able to go to the next player and be like, ‘Listen, man. It’s nothing personal.’
“There’s a good balance between myself and him, because he knows just as he can challenge anybody else, I’ll challenge him. When you get a person on that level, it’s kind of intimidating for people who don’t know how to challenge authority.”
James is known as a great teammate, but that doesn’t mean he won’t be critical of teammates when necessary, and Smith can handle that. His role definitely won’t be the same as it was in Cleveland, but he maintains comfort with LeBron.
“I’ve felt pretty comfortable with him because I’ve known him since high school,” Smith added. “For me, it was mainly switching teams in practice. He could be Kevin Love and Kyrie’s team, and they would blow the second unit out. (I would say), ‘Let’s switch it over and go against everybody.’ Just little things like that to challenge him.”
Smith has a good idea of what it takes to push LeBron, which could be the most important thing he could bring to the Lakers. His on-court contributions could be limited with the depth of the Lakers, but if nothing else, Smith plans on pushing James which could make all the difference for this Lakers team.
“As much as you think he doesn’t get a little sidetracked, it gets him re-engaged. For somebody at that level you’ve just got to create new challenges,” Smith said.
“Granted, he doesn’t need me to make those challenges. He’s already LeBron. But at the same time it’s good to have somebody on your team to keep pushing you to be great.”
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