In pursuit of shooting depth ahead of the playoffs, the Los Angeles Lakers will reportedly host free agent J.R. Smith for a workout “early this week,” according to The Athletic’s Shams Charania.
News of the Lakers’ interest in Smith was first reported by The New York Times’ Marc Stein 15 minutes after the trade deadline passed and L.A. failed to secure any reserves. Stein said Smith might work out for them as early as mid-February, but it appears the two sides settled on early March.
Smith has not played in the NBA since November 2018, when he criticized the Cleveland Cavaliers for tanking and publicly requested a trade from the franchise he won a title with alongside LeBron James. The hope for the Lakers would be that James can once again harness what is left of Smith.
The 34-year-old Smith’s 1,929 successful 3-point attempts over 15 seasons rank 13th in NBA history. He is a 37.3 percent career long-range shooter who shot just 30.8 percent from distance to start last season. He would be afforded clean looks in an offense featuring James and Anthony Davis. Smith has also been a capable defender when committed, but his commitment often wavers.
When last we saw Smith in a big game, his lapse in judgment cost the Cavaliers Game 1 of the 2018 Finals and their only chance at making it a competitive series. James was visibly furious with Smith for dribbling out the clock in a tied game. That the Lakers are even considering Smith for a roster spot signals some desperation, as does their reported workout of Dion Waiters on Monday.
The Lakers, of course, are not entirely desperate. They own the Western Conference’s best record by six games in the loss column and are riding another streak of eight wins in their last nine games. Any team with James and Davis will be a title contender, but the question plaguing the Lakers ever since failing to land a third star in free agency has been the offensive strength of the roster around them. The Lakers currently rank 13th in 3-point percentage and 20th in made threes per game.
The Lakers reportedly inquired about Marcus Morris, Bogdan Bogdanovic, Spencer Dinwiddie and Dennis Schroder, among others, at the trade deadline, but could not make a deal with Kyle Kuzma as their best asset in return. The New York Knicks dealt Morris to the Los Angeles Clippers, creating some urgency for a Lakers team that has lost to their deeper rivals in both meetings so far this season.
The Lakers also tried to lure Darren Collison out of retirement, but the former UCLA star opted out of a comeback. They did succeed in landing Markieff Morris on the buyout market. He is averaging 6.8 points in four appearances for the Lakers, who are clearly in search of more postseason help.
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