The Los Angeles Lakers will enter the bubble in Orlando a bit shorthanded as Avery Bradley notified the team that he will be sitting out the NBA restart in order to tend to his family and focus on addressing the social issues facing the Black community.
Bradley’s loss hurts the Lakers’ depth and guard rotation, but players like Alex Caruso and Dion Waiters will be available to help fill in the gaps. Caruso should be able to pick up the defensive slack while Waiters will need to be a spark plug off the bench to help replace some of Bradley’s offensive production.
With knowing Bradley won’t be available, Lakers vice president of basketball operations Rob Pelinka made the quick decision to sign JR Smith for the remainder of the season. According to Chris B. Haynes of Yahoo Sports, Smith will don No. 21 with Los Angeles:
J.R. Smith will wear No. 21 for the Los Angeles Lakers, his agent @RichPaul4 of @KlutchSports tells Yahoo Sports.
— Chris Haynes (@ChrisBHaynes) July 1, 2020
Smith joins Josh Powell, Ronny Turiaf and Michael Cooper as notable Lakers to wear No. 21 for the storied franchise. The number was last worn by Zach Norvell Jr.
Smith last played during the 2018-19 season as a member of the Cleveland Cavaliers but eventually parted ways with the franchise after it was clear they were heading toward a rebuild. He was waived during the 2019 offseason and proceeded to work out in hopes of signing with an NBA team.
Although the guard is already 34 years old and has not played in almost two years, he should still have some utility as an outside shooter who can hit contested looks. His familiarity playing alongside LeBron James was a factor in his signing, and the two’s chemistry will be useful when seeding games start.
While Smith is a solid option given the circumstances, it remains to be seen how much he has left in the tank given his layoff. Hopefully he comes in motivated and ready to play when his number gets called.
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