LeBron James welcomes J.R. Smith to Lakers: ‘Right back at it’
LeBron James formally welcomed former Cleveland Cavaliers teammate J.R. Smith to the Los Angeles Lakers after the veteran’s signing became official Wednesday by stating things are just like the old days.
Smith has not played since November 2018, but the Lakers’ interest in signing him increased after starting guard Avery Bradley decided against joining the team later this month in Orlando, Fla., for the NBA’s restart at the Walt Disney World’s ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex.
“The Los Angeles Lakers have signed guard JR Smith as a Substitute Player for the NBA season restart, it was announced today by Vice President of Basketball Operations and General Manager Rob Pelinka,” the Lakers announced in a statement. “Per team policy, terms of the deal were not released.”
Once the news became official, James took to social media to welcome Smith into the fold, writing on Instagram, “Yessir bro! Right back at it like we never left.”
#LeBronJames welcomes No.21 #JRSmith to the Lakers, says its like they ‘never left’ #LakeShow https://t.co/2NFWXzjY41— Republic (@republic) July 2, 2020
Smith and James of course were Cavaliers teammates from 2015 to 2018, during which Cleveland made four consecutive appearances in the NBA Finals, including the team’s title run in 2016.
“That was a factor: his familiarity with LeBron and the way we built our team, obviously around LeBron,” Vogel said during a conference call with reporters on Wednesday, per Silver Screen & Roll. “There’s a lot of similarities to the things they did in Cleveland. That definitely is a factor in what we feel J.R. can bring to the table in what is going to be a very short time to get acclimated.”
Smith, 34, will have his work cut out for him to knock off a few years of rust and get acclimated to his new teammates and situation. With the NBA’s restart tentatively scheduled for July 30, the 2013 NBA Sixth Man of the Year has little time to get back into the swing of things.
On an amusing note, Smith joining James on the Lakers has rekindled memories of his role in perhaps one of the most infamous and incomprehensible mental lapses in NBA Finals history.