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J.R. Smith on LeBron James’ mindset ahead of restart: ‘Pressure is off’

J.R. Smith provided an inside look on how LeBron James feels heading into the NBA’s restart later this month, and it sounds like the Los Angeles Lakers superstar is ready to roll thanks to a newfound mindset.

The new Lakers player spoke with reporters Friday on a Zoom conference, and he made note of a change in James since the two reached the NBA Finals four straight seasons and won the title in 2016 as Cleveland Cavaliers teammates.

“I’d say more than anything he’s more patient now,” Smith said of James. “I think when he was younger, he had that more of a shorter fuse with things I would say.”

Smith spoke at length about how James is in a great spot heading into the July 30 restart at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex because he feels less pressure now than he did earlier in his career.

The Lakers are expected to rely on Smith — whose signing James championed — more heavily than originally planned when the team signed the veteran a few weeks ago. With Rajon Rondo on the shelf for six to eight weeks after undergoing right thumb surgery and Avery Bradley opting out of playing in the Walt Disney World bubble, Smith consequently ascended the Lakers’ rotation.

Perhaps the most notable aspect of Smith’s remarks Friday, though, is how he relayed a belief that the entire Lakers squad is prepared for a deep postseason run. The veteran stated “egos” have been checked at the door the Lakers are all “about winning.”