The four-month hiatus caused by the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic without a doubt had an impact on the Los Angeles Lakers and other teams participating in the NBA restart.
Many franchises checked in at Walt Disney World with altered rosters and often in a much different shape than they were before the games were stopped on March 11. The Lakers lost their primary perimeter defender Avery Bradley who opted out of the NBA restart due to personal reasons.
But in life, one’s loss often is another’s gain. And for JR Smith the unexpected void in the team’s roster was an opportunity to escape depression and return to the league a year-and-a-half after he was waived by the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Numerous experts questioned Lakers head coach Frank Vogel’s choice to task Smith with replacing Bradley due to his doubtful fitness and off-the-court issues. Among his infamous incidents, the 2016 NBA champion threw a bowl of soup at Cavs assistant coach Damon Jones and was involved in a fight during a protest for George Floyd in Los Angeles earlier this year.
But Smith has told Kyle Goon of the Southern California News Group he is ready to leave everything on the court for the Lakers in the NBA bubble, hoping that will allow him to leave the incidents behind and redeem himself in fans’ eyes:
“It is what it is, honestly,” he said. “People are going to have that perception of me. I’m convinced of it. There’s nothing I can really do to change that except just come every day and dedicate myself, and just be consistent.”
Smith is yet to make a significant impact for the Lakers, playing sparingly in both the seeding games and now playoffs. He does have familiarity with LeBron James, and Smith’s shooting ability could eventually come up key before it’s all said and done.
Vogel suggested 10-deep playoff rotation
Smith has openly said he is fully embracing his fringe role in Vogel’s rotation, hoping his focus on defense could result in more minutes on the court. And the Lakers head coach certainly welcomes the guard’s eagerness considering he suggested being willing to make use of his roster’s depth during the NBA Playoffs.
“I traditionally will go in continuing to use my depth and then adjust as the series goes along,” Vogel said recently. “That will be the same thing with our group here. We’ve got a lot of guys that can play, that I trust, that can contribute. We’ll see what each of those skillsets fits that series and opponent.”
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