Lakers add veteran J.R. Smith for Orlando championship push

Cleveland Cavaliers guard J.R. Smith has joined LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers for their championship push. (AP Photo/Scott R. Galvin, File)
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Updated 02 July 2020

Lakers add veteran J.R. Smith for Orlando championship push

  • Smith hasn’t played in the NBA since November 2018, but the 2013 Sixth Man of the Year is a longtime trusted teammate of LeBron James

LOS ANGELES: J.R. Smith has joined LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers for their championship push.
The Lakers announced their long-anticipated signing of Smith as a substitute player Wednesday, the first day allowed under the rules of the NBA’s summer restart.
Smith is the Lakers’ roster replacement for Avery Bradley, who cited family reasons last week for his decision not to finish the season with his team in Orlando amid the coronavirus pandemic.
“We’re not going to ask him to come in and be Avery Bradley,” Lakers coach Frank Vogel said. “He’s going to come in and be J.R. Smith. He’s going to just fill that position more than fill that role. Avery’s loss is obviously a huge loss for us, but we’re a next-man-up team. J.R. is going to come in and help fill that need, but we have a lot of guys in that position that can do the same.”
The 34-year-old Smith hasn’t played in the NBA since November 2018, but the 2013 Sixth Man of the Year is a longtime trusted teammate of James. During their four years together with the Cleveland Cavaliers, they won a title in 2016 and reached four consecutive NBA Finals.
“That was a factor, his familiarity with LeBron,” Vogel said. “The way we’ve built our team around LeBron, there’s a lot of similarities to the way they built their team in Cleveland. That definitely is a factor in what we feel like J.R. can bring to the table in what is going to be a very short time to get acclimated.”
Vogel also said the Lakers remain “hopeful and optimistic” that center Dwight Howard will be with the team in Orlando. Howard hasn’t made a final decision while contemplating the welfare of his 6-year-old son, whose mother died earlier this year.
“We don’t know what the level of participation is going to be yet,” Vogel said. “He wants to play. ... We don’t have any intention of replacing Dwight’s roster spot. When we leave (for Orlando next week), he’ll hopefully be able to join us.”
Bradley was a starter and a key role player in his first season with the Lakers, averaging 8.6 points per game with a dependable 3-point shot while playing solid wing defense. But the Western Conference-leading Lakers also excelled while Bradley missed 13 games due to injury, with Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Alex Caruso capably absorbing the extra minutes.
“We’ve got to fill his role, and it might not be with one person,” Caruso said. “This team has done a great job all year when guys have been out with stepping up and filling in. I’m not sure if I’m going to be the sole provider of everything that Avery did, but I’m definitely going to be ready to fill part of that gap.”
Smith is a 15-year NBA veteran, but he has been out of the league since the Cavaliers dropped him early in their first season after James’ move to Los Angeles.
Smith worked out for the Lakers in February before the club instead signed Dion Waiters, who didn’t get to suit up for his new team before the pandemic suspended the season.
“In terms of what (Smith) brings to the table, just the experience factor,” Vogel said. “This guy is a big-time player. He’s proven it over the course of his career. We know he can help us. We almost added him earlier in the year when we added Dion Waiters, and now we have the luxury of having both.”
Smith’s perimeter defense and 3-point shooting fit well into the Lakers’ scheme, even if he is likely to play only a supporting role in Orlando while the Lakers pursue their franchise’s 17th championship.
Smith is ninth in NBA history with 288 career playoff 3-pointers made while hitting 37% of his 3-point shots. He is fourth in league history in NBA Finals 3-pointers made.
“How quickly can we get (Smith) acclimated? I think there’s going to be plenty of time,” Vogel said. “We have a simple system that we hope can be picked up pretty quickly. Our guys picked it up pretty quickly to start this season, and we hope that it’s going to be the same for both Dion and for J.R.”


Heat rally past Celtics for 2-0 lead in NBA’s Eastern Conference playoff

Updated 12 min ago

Heat rally past Celtics for 2-0 lead in NBA’s Eastern Conference playoff

  • Boston Celtics lose another big lead on the court as well as their cool in the postgame locker room

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Florida: Down by 14 in Game 1, the Miami Heat found a way.
Down by 17 in Game 2, they did it again Thursday night. And after making the Boston Celtics lose another big lead on the court — as well as their cool in the postgame locker room — the unheralded Heat are two wins away from the NBA Finals.
Goran Dragic scored 25 points, Bam Adebayo led a big third-quarter rally to finish with 21, and the Heat pulled off another comeback to beat the Celtics 106-101 and take a 2-0 lead in the Eastern Conference finals.
“We got grit,” Adebayo said. “That’s about all I can tell you. We got grit, man.”
Duncan Robinson scored 18 points, Jimmy Butler had 14, Jae Crowder 12 and Tyler Herro 11. The Heat were down by 17 in the second quarter and trailed by 13 at halftime.
They had been 0-21 in playoff games when trailing by at least that many at intermission. They’re 1-21 now, and two wins away from their first NBA Finals since 2014 — and the team said the 17-point comeback matched the biggest in Heat postseason history.
“We like to make it hard on ourselves,” Butler said. “We like being down double-digits and being the comeback kids.”
Kemba Walker had 23 points for Boston, which got 21 apiece from Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum. Brown missed a corner 3 that would have tied it with 15 seconds left, and Butler sealed it with two free throws with 7.4 seconds remaining.
The Celtics had a loud, animated conversation in their locker room postgame, the walls unable to hold in the sound. They tried to downplay whatever was happening afterward.
“It was nothing,” Walker said. “It was nothing.”
Added Tatum: “We’re frustrated. But that’s team sports. Not supposed to be happy we’re down 0-2. But that’s nothing out of the ordinary. Just talking about the game. It’s cool.”
Dragic — playing on the third anniversary of his fondest basketball moment, that being when he led Slovenia to the EuroBasket Championship — scored nine points in the fourth quarter.
“Feels exactly the same,” Dragic said, when asked to compare Slovenia’s golden moment to the Heat win Thursday. “A great day.”
The Heat took a 2-0 series lead for the 11th time in coach Erik Spoelstra’s tenure. They’ve won all previous 10 instances.
Game 3 is Saturday.
The Heat got in big trouble in the series opener by scoring 18 points in the first quarter and 16 points in the third. In Game 2, another 18-point quarter — the second — sent Boston into the half up comfortably, 60-47.
And then it all changed.
Miami outscored Boston 37-17 in the third quarter, with Adebayo — the defensive hero of Game 1 — outshooting and nearly outscoring the Celtics by himself. Boston went 4 for 12 from the floor in the quarter, Adebayo went 7 for 8 on his way to a 15-point period and the Heat led 84-77 when it was over.
“We pulled apart and we didn’t play well,” Celtics coach Brad Stevens said. “And they did a good job. We’re not beating this team if we’re not completely connected on both ends of the court. So, got to get back to being that, which we’ve been at times. But right now, they’re a better team. We’re going to have to fight to get back in this series.”
They showed some fight in the fourth. The Celtics went on a 15-2 run, silencing the Heat for nearly seven minutes and going up 94-89 on a 3-pointer by Walker with 4:25 left.
That only set the stage for another Heat rally: Miami finished the game on a 17-7 run.
“Team effort,” Butler said.

TIP-INS
Heat: Spoelstra’s 81st career playoff win ties him for eighth all-time with K.C. Jones. ... Miami’s 20-point differential in the third quarter was a Heat record for that quarter in the playoffs, and the sixth time in Heat playoff history they outscored an opponent by at least 20 in any quarter. ... Robinson, who had been 2 for 9 on 3’s in his last two games, made four in the first quarter and six in the game. ... Andre Iguodala couldn’t play after halftime with back tightness.
Celtics: Gordon Hayward (ankle) remained out. ... Enes Kanter and Romeo Langford got first-quarter minutes after not playing in Game 1, but Langford left after about a minute with an adductor strain. Kanter had nine points and six rebounds in eight first-half minutes. ... Walker came in in a 5-for-35 slump from 3-point land, and went 4 for 11 Thursday.

3’S ARE WILD
Crowder’s 3-pointer with 5:43 left in the third quarter was — fittingly — the 33,333rd in NBA playoff history.

SCHEDULE UPDATE
There will be a break between Games 3 and 4. Game 3 is Saturday; Game 4 won’t be until Wednesday.

HBCU NIGHT
Roughly 100 students and alumni from more than 60 historically black colleges and universities got to watch (through the video screens) as part of the NBA’s HBCU Virtual Fan Night. They also held a question-and-answer session with Philadelphia forward and Norfolk State University alumnus Kyle O’Quinn at halftime.