Los Angeles Lakers: J.R. Smith is just what the Lakers needed

(Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images) - Los Angeles Lakers
(Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images) - Los Angeles Lakers /

J.R. Smith will be a valuable asset to the Los Angeles Lakers.

After a long hiatus as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Los Angeles Lakers and newly-acquired guard J.R. Smith finally took the court for a televised five-on-five basketball game with the Dallas Mavericks inside the Orlando bubble on Thursday.

Although the Lakers have clinched the playoffs, there are some obvious questions surrounding the health and availability of one of the league’s most experienced teams.

As most Laker fans are aware, guard Avery Bradley has elected to stay with his family due to the severity of the COVID-19 situation in Florida.

Bradley announced about a month ago that he would not be joining the team at any point during the NBA restart due to the respiratory health history of his six-year-old son Liam.

To make matters worse for Laker fans, former All-Star and NBA champion point guard Rajon Rondo will miss 6-8 weeks with a fractured thumb.

For a team that has seen the loss of Laker legend Kobe Bryant earlier this season, went through a global pandemic and still holds the best record in the Western Conference, it’s hard to imagine a few hits to the roster will make much difference.

With two veteran backcourt players down, the Lakers have responded by signing former NBA champion and LeBron James teammate J.R. Smith.

While our most recent memory of J.R. Smith was his blunder in the closing seconds of LeBron’s game one masterpiece during the 2018 NBA Finals, he’s had flashes of greatness as well.

During the 2016 title run, Smith averaged a respectable 11.5 points per game on a blistering 43% clip from behind the arc in the playoffs.

A year later, He shot nearly 51% from the field and an even more impressive 50% from the three-point line in the postseason.

Although Smith can be a hothead at times and has been known to make questionable decisions, his fearlessness shooting the ball and his commitment to defense in the later stages of his career were keys to the success of the Cavs during their trips to the finals.

Thursday’s game was merely a scrimmage, but we got to see a brief reminder of what a focused J.R. Smith is capable of in the fourth quarter:

With the Lakers trailing by seven with about 6:20 to play, Smith makes a pinpoint lob pass to Dwight Howard for a dunk that cut the lead to five.

Down 12 with about three minutes remaining in the game, J.R. Smith converted on a three-point play to cut the lead to single digits.

With a little under two minutes to play, he came up with a huge steal and beautiful behind the back dime to cut it to seven.

Then with under 30 seconds to play, Smith canned a three to cut the lead to only two. Unfortunately, The Mavericks were able to hang on for a 108-104 win.

Next. Analyzing the pick-and-roll defense vs. the Mavericks. dark

Despite Thursday’s action holding no real weight in the Los Angeles Lakers’ quest for the title, it was a subtle reminder of the type of all-around player Smith has become over his career. His confidence on both ends of the floor could be a deciding factor come playoff time.