Frank Vogel had a conversation with J.R. Smith on Wednesday to welcome the veteran guard to the Lakers. Smith officially signed his contract to join the team for the remainder of the season as a replacement for Avery Bradley.
It is Smith’s experience that the Lakers' coach believes will help the team the most.
“This guy is a big-time player,” Vogel said. “He’s proven it over the course of his career. We know he can help us. We almost signed him earlier in the year when we added Dion Waiters, and now we have the luxury of having both. We’re not going to ask him to come in and be Avery Bradley. He’s going to come in and be J.R. Smith.”
Although Smith is designated as a replacement for Bradley, the Lakers' rotation at the position is likely to begin with Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Alex Caruso.
“It might not be with one person,” Caruso said of replacing Bradley, a defensive stalwart. “But this team has done a great job all year when guys have been out of stepping up and filling a role or a need, whether it be [LeBron James] missing a game or a guard being out for a couple of games because of injury. I’m not sure if I’m going to be the sole provider of everything that Avery did. That’s a lot to ask for just because of how good he is at what he does. But I’m definitely going to be ready to fill part of that gap and that need.”
Smith and Waiters worked out for the Lakers on March 2. At the time the team was looking for a player who could contribute immediately to fill a roster spot that had been taken by DeMarcus Cousins. The 6-foot-10 center did not play in any games for the Lakers after tearing his anterior cruciate ligament last August and was waived.
Waiters also has yet to play for the Lakers as the season was halted eight days after he signed.
Caruso fights for equality
Caruso has not been shy on Twitter about supporting protests against police brutality and racial injustice. He spoke about making sure he, the only white player on the Lakers, supports his Black teammates and coaches in their fight for equality.
“I feel like it's a real easy human thing that I think people overlook just to be a good person and treat everybody how they should be treated,” Caruso said during a video conference call Wednesday. “Going forward as to how it relates to this team and the league, I’m 100% backing Black teammates, Black coaches, anybody who I’ve never had the opportunity to live the life they have, to experience the things they do.
“Part of my role as the white guy on the team and a white guy in the league is understanding and realizing I’m never going to understand what they actually go through … but being there to support them and be a crutch for them to lean on whenever they need it.”
Two NBA teams have secured the ability to turn their workplaces into voting spaces, and James’ voting rights organization wants to see more of that.
More Than A Vote is working with Atlanta Hawks coach Lloyd Pierce, former New York Knicks coach David Fizdale and Jocelyn Benson, Michigan’s secretary of state, to expand the use of arenas and team facilities as polling places.
The Hawks’ arena will be a polling place this fall as will the Detroit Pistons’ practice facility. The Milwaukee Bucks are also researching their options for a similar arrangement.
James helped launch More Than A Vote this summer as an organization that uses athletes and entertainers to help support Black voters and fight voter suppression in Black communities.