The Los Angeles Lakers struggled their way through seeding play and encountered some of the same troubles in a loss to the Portland Trail Blazers in Game 1 of their first-round matchup.
The Trail Blazers are widely considered to be a threatening opponent for Los Angeles as Damian Lillard has been on a tear. The Lakers entered the series still as the favorite, but after dropping Game 1, questions have only intensified.
Particularly with head coach Frank Vogel, the starting lineup and his rotation. Vogel spoke highly of JR Smith and Dion Waiters in the time leading up to the playoffs, yet both were noticeably absent in the loss to the Trail Blazers.
Smith never entered, and Waiters played all of 73 seconds. Regardless of what’s to come, Smith maintained he will contribute whether or not he’s playing.
“Fortunately, one thing at 34 is I’ve learned my role as a player and person,” he said. “I know who I am and I’m very confident with that. Whether it be out there for 35 minutes or I don’t play at all, I know my contribution to the team is just as well if I didn’t play, because of my communication and what I’ve seen.
“I’m in a fortunate position to whether I do play I can have an impact, or if I don’t play I can pretty much make the same impact. It’s a great feeling.”
Smith played sparingly in the seeding games, but should be a viable option in certain situations in the playoffs. He has shown an ability to still be a viable threat as a spot-up shooter, which the Lakers currently are devoid of.
JR Smith fitting in
Smith was signed as a replacement for Avery Bradley, and looked good on the court given all the circumstances.
The roster lacked pure shooters off the bench, but Smith was able to address that need in the modest minutes he got and appeared comfortable in his minimized role. While he is not going to see large stretches of game time, he will definitely be used as a floor spacing option when teams decide to load on James and Davis.
The veteran guard was unable to get much practice time in with the Lakers, but that did not seem to stop him from getting comfortable with his new teammates. “I know it hasn’t shown in my play but I definitely have gotten acclimated to the players,” Smith recently said.
“It’s so much easier when you have a dialogue, you can go talk to players and everybody is on the same page and has the same goal to win a championship. Fortunately we put a great team together with cohesiveness and communication. Guys are able to talk to one another and it made it so much easier to fit in.”
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