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.”


Chiefs rout Broncos 43-16 as Mahomes barely breaks a sweat

Updated 26 October 2020

Chiefs rout Broncos 43-16 as Mahomes barely breaks a sweat

DENVER: On a freezing afternoon in the snow, Patrick Mahomes barely broke a sweat.
The Kansas City Chiefs routed the Broncos 43-16 for their 10th consecutive win over Denver despite failing to convert a single third down (0-for-8) and getting just 200 yards and at touchdown from their star quarterback.
The Chiefs got a pick-6, a kickoff return for a TD, two rushing TDs, including one from his backup, and three field goals to more than make up for Mahomes’ pedestrian numbers.
“I deal with him every day and all he wants to do is win,” Chiefs coach Andy Reid said. “It’s crazy. You know how he’s wired. But that’s what’s real every day. He wants to rip your heart out when he’s out there playing. He wants to do well and do all that. But when other people are scoring, he’s jumping up and down, likewise. He just wants to win. That’s the beauty of him.”
“Whenever you feel like you don’t play a great game offensively and you win by 27 it’s a good feeling,” Mahomes said. “A win’s a win.”
And for Denver, a loss is a loss. Again.
“I can play a whole lot better, and I’m going to,” said Broncos QB Drew Lock, who threw for 254 yards with no TDs and two interceptions.
Mahomes completed 15 of 23 passes but said he only worries about results, not statistics.
“A young Patrick would’ve probably tried to force it and thrown a ball and maybe made a bad interception or something like that,” Mahomes said, relaying a conversation he had with teammate Tyrann Mathieu. “Whereas, now, seeing the way the defense was playing and knowing it’s not there, just kind of either taking the sack or not completing the pass and throwing it away” is the way to go.
“You have to learn ways to win in this league,” Mahomes said. “It’s not always going to be 400 passing yards or 200 rushing yards or whatever it is. It’s going to be finding ways to win. I think this team is doing a great job of doing that.”
The Chiefs (6-1) found other ways to dominate Denver (2-4) on a snowy afternoon that began with a temperature of 14 degrees at kickoff, the coldest October game in Broncos history.
Kansas City took a 24-9 halftime lead even though Mahomes completed just one pass in the second quarter and had only 99 yards through the air in the first half.
Mahomes finally extended his NFL-leading streak to 17 consecutive games with a touchdown throw when he hit Tyreek Hill from 10 yards to make it 37-9 with 11 minutes remaining in the fourth quarter.
Mahomes’ lone TD throw followed the Chiefs’ fourth takeaway, an interception by Mathieu when rookie KJ Hamler let Lock’s pass bounce off him and right into the arms of the Chiefs star safety.
A week after the Chiefs ran more times than they threw it for the first time in Reid’s eight seasons in Kansas City, it was K.C.’s ground game, special teams and defense that did the damage in Denver in the NFL’s first snow game of 2020.
In the first half, the Chiefs scored touchdowns on Byron Pringle’s 102-yard kickoff return and Daniel Sorensen’s 50-yard interception return to go with Clyde Edwards-Helaire’s 11-yard run in which he broke five tackles.
“You’re not going to beat a team like Kansas City doing that,” lamented Broncos coach Vic Fangio, whose team has been outscored 96-25 in three games against the Chiefs.
Edwards-Hilaire carved his way through a wall of Denver defenders to open the scoring on a snowy, freezing afternoon.
Running up the middle, the rookie plowed through linebacker Alexander Johnson and defensive backs Kareem Jackson, Bryce Callahan, Justin Simmons and Michael Ojemudia like a bowling ball knocking down pins.
The Broncos responded with Lock’s first career touchdown run, from 2 yards, but Brandon McManus missed the extra point, leaving Kansas City ahead 7-6, and the Chiefs would never trail.