As reported on Monday by multiple sources, it appears that free-agent guard J.R. Smith will soon be reuniting with LeBron James on the Los Angeles Lakers and signing a contract with the team for the remainder of the 2019-20 NBA season.
Marc Stein of The New York Times was the first to report on Smith’s status with the Lakers, tweeting on Tuesday that the team is “expected to finalize a rest-of-the-season contract” with the 34-year-old. Teams have up until Tuesday, 11:59 p.m. EDT to sign replacement players for those who won’t be taking part in the resumption of the 2019-20 season, and up until Wednesday to submit their final rosters for the restart.
A few minutes after Stein’s post, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski took to Twitter to report that Smith and the Lakers “are working through the final steps of a deal,” thus essentially confirming he will be added to the roster. The organization has yet to publicly comment on the rumored transaction, but Smith has replied positively to several current and former NBA players who tweeted their congratulations. These include Isaiah Thomas, Reggie Evans, and Matt Barnes, the latter of whom specifically referenced “signing with the Lakers” in his post.
Should Smith indeed join the Lakers, this will allow him to team up again with James more than four years after they helped the Cleveland Cavaliers win their first NBA championship in team history. The pair also played together in three losing efforts in the NBA Finals, with Smith averaging 8.3 points, 2.9 rebounds, and 1.8 assists in 2017-18 — his last full season in Cleveland, as noted by Bleacher Report.
In the 2018-19 campaign, Smith’s averages dropped to 6.7 points, 1.6 rebounds, and 1.9 assists as he played just 11 games early in the season before getting deactivated. After officially getting released by the Cavs in July 2019 and remaining unsigned in the months that followed, he worked out with the Lakers but failed to earn a roster spot.
Talking about what fans can expect from Smith at this point in his career, Bleacher Report speculated that he could “carve out a niche,” even in a team featuring James, Anthony Davis, and Kyle Kuzma. With Avery Bradley sitting out the season restart, Smith could fill the Lakers’ need for someone who can sink open shots, while also helping out in the postseason due to his playoff experience. The outlet also noted that he may likely end up as an “offensive catalyst off the bench,” much like he has been at various points of his lengthy NBA career.