Lakers News: JR Smith Discusses LeBron James Relationship Ahead of NBA Restart

Jake RillSenior Analyst IIIJuly 7, 2020

Cleveland Cavaliers guard JR Smith (5) and Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James (23) in the first half of an NBA basketball game Wednesday, March 7, 2018, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
David Zalubowski/Associated Press

Nobody on the Los Angeles Lakers roster has as much history with LeBron James as JR Smith.

The two played together for the Cleveland Cavaliers from 2015-18. As teammates, they had their ups, such as winning the NBA title in 2016, and their downs, like when Smith forgot the score in the closing minutes of Game 1 of the 2018 NBA Finals that resulted in James famously showing his frustration toward him on the court.

Smith hasn't played in an NBA game since Nov. 19, 2018, but the Lakers signed the 34-year-old shooting guard to a deal last week after Avery Bradley had announced he's not playing when the 2019-20 season resumes in Orlando, Florida later this month.

And while Smith may not make a huge impact on the court, he believes his familiarity with James can help Los Angeles.

"It's different because obviously he does everything he wants to do to win and everything else. It kind of comes off in the wrong way sometimes," Smith told reporters Monday. "It's just a good balance between myself and him, I think, because he knows just as well as he can challenge anybody else, I'll challenge him. And vice versa."

Smith compared James to Michael Jordan, who showed during ESPN's The Last Dance that he could be tough on his teammates at times while trying to have success. Smith added that he and James complement each other well in those settings.

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"For somebody at that level, you've got to create new challenges within themselves," he said. "Somebody to keep pushing. Now granted, he doesn't need me to create those challenges. He's already Bron. But sometimes, it's good to have somebody 'on your team,' or in your circle, to keep pushing you to be great."

Tony Dejak/Associated Press

James has won three NBA titles (two with the Miami Heat and one with the Cavs), but he'll be looking to win his first with the Lakers when the season resumes.

Last year, in James' first season with the team, they missed out on the playoffs, ending his postseason streak at 13 years. He had also played in the NBA Finals each of the previous eight seasons heading into 2018-19.

Things have gone better for the Lakers this season after they acquired Anthony Davis in a trade with the New Orleans Pelicans last summer. Heading into the season restart, they are first in the Western Conference at 49-14, holding a 5.5-game lead over the Los Angeles Clippers for the top seed.

As for Smith, he could win his second NBA title and have a better end to his career after playing only 11 games for Cleveland early in the 2018-19 season.

Although Kentavious Caldwell-Pope is likely to pick up most of the extra minutes caused by Bradley's absence, it's possible Smith could end up making an impact for the Lakers before the season is over.

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