Alex Caruso

J.R. Smith at Lakers game
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Report: Lakers to sign J.R. Smith

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The lasting memory of J.R. Smith in the NBA: Forgetting the score in the NBA Finals.

He’ll have a chance to change the narrative.

The shooting guard is set to reunite with former Cavaliers teammate LeBron James on the Lakers, who won’t have Avery Bradley for the NBA’s resumption at Disney World.

Marc Stein of The New York Times:

Smith will turn 35 during the scheduled playoffs. He hasn’t played well in four years.

I wouldn’t expect much.

But Smith has chemistry with LeBron, who excels at attracting attention and dishing to 3-point shooters like Smith. On a good team, Smith won’t face the issues that doomed his finish in Cleveland.

Smith will likely fall behind Danny Green, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Alex Caruso and Rajon Rondo in Los Angeles’ perimeter rotation. Though Smith might get spot minutes, the Lakers will definitely miss Bradley’s feisty defense. Smith isn’t duplicating that.

Also: Smith, Dion Waiters, Dwight Howard and JaVale McGee now all play for the same team. Nay, the same championship contender.

J.R. Smith is the reported frontrunner to fill Lakers’ roster spot

J.R. Smith Lakers
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Avery Bradley has chosen to stay home and focus on his family rather than head to Orlando for the restart.

That may mean a LeBron James/J.R. Smith reunion.

The Lakers are leaning toward bringing Smith in for the restart to fill Bradley’s roster spot, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

Lakers president of basketball operations Rob Pelinka and Smith’s agent, Rich Paul of Klutch Sports, were discussing a possible agreement Tuesday night and were expected to speak again Wednesday, sources said…

Smith worked out for the Lakers in February before the team signed guard Dion Waiters to a deal.

The Lakers are contenders looking for veterans they can give playoff minutes to if needed. Most of Bradley’s minutes will be split between Alex Caruso and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, but the Lakers would love to add one more person they can trust to the mix.

But is Smith that guy?

When was the last time Smith stepped on an NBA court? November 19, 2018. And he played six minutes that night. His game was slipping away from him already (30.8% from three his last season), he’s not always the most focused player ever, and there was a reason other teams have not jumped to sign him in nearly two years.

Smith is a former Sixth Man of the Year and NBA champion who is a career 37% shooter from three. Maybe with the time off the Lakers could use him for depth in a limited role. However, the bottom line is if the Lakers end up leaning on Smith for significant minutes their problems are much bigger than who they signed in the transaction window.

Lakers’ Avery Bradley reportedly opts out, will not play at Orlando restart

Lakers Avery Bradley
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Lakers’ starter Avery Bradley is putting his family first — and that means he will not be suiting up in Orlando for the NBA’s restart.

Bradley informed the Lakers of his decision Tuesday, choosing to spend more time with his family and put them first over basketball, Bradley told Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

[Bradley’s 6-year-old son] Liam Bradley has a history of struggling to recover from respiratory illnesses and it’s unlikely that he could have been medically cleared to enter the Orlando bubble with his family.

“As committed to my Lakers teammates and the organization as I am, I ultimately play basketball for my family. And so, at a time like this, I can’t imagine making any decision that might put my family’s health and well-being at even the slightest risk.

“As promised also, I will use this time away to focus on the formation of projects to help strengthen my communities.”

In a sports world where the culture has long been families have to sacrifice so that a player can chase a title/money, it’s good to see a player put his family and their well being in front of money (Bradley will not be paid for the Orlando games). It’s a decision we should all respect.

Bradley also has been at the forefront of players involved in the Black Lives Matter and social justice movements, including pushing hard for the NBA itself to take action and not just give lip service. He can focus on those causes along with his family.

On the court, this is a blow to the Lakers: Bradley is the starting two guard, giving the Lakers 8.6 points a game, some floor spacing with his shooting (36.4% from three), and strong defense. Of the players on the roster, this will mean a bump in minutes and role for fan-favorite Alex Caruso.

The Lakers can fill Bradley’s roster spot in Orlando and seem to be looking at former LeBron James teammate — although not always the most helpful teammate — J.R. Smith.

Jamal Crawford also is available, if the Lakers are looking for veteran help. The Lakers signed Dion Waiters just before the season was shut down, plus they have Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Rajon Rondo to play some guard minutes.

None of them, however, begin to fill the hole Bradley leaves in the roster.

Breaking NBA Twitter: Lakers’ Alex Caruso will try to dap up Rihanna ‘for the culture’

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The Lakers are a social media force, the glamour franchise in a star-studded market. Multiplying that, now they have the biggest star in the game in LeBron James (a social media powerhouse in his own right). All of that elevates even role players into a level of fame not seen with any other franchise—players like fan-favorite, balding Alex Caruso.

Rihanna is a music and pop culture superstar with 82 million Instagram followers. She’s also a huge basketball and LeBron James fan and is a regular at Lakers’ games, sitting courtside.

Combine those two and you get what became an NBA Twitter viral moment: Rihanna checked out Caruso.

In a conversation about the celebrities who flock to Laker games, that clip came up on a recent episode of “The LiucciCast.” At the urging of the host, Caruso promised to dap her up, “for the culture.” (Hat tip Silver Screen and Roll, and the must-read Good Morning Basketball newsletter from Tom Ziller.)

But you did not dap up Rihanna, which is my favorite Caruso gif, even with all the dunks, you didn’t dap her up, that would have been the highest-risk, highest-reward move of your career and I dare you to do it if she’s there. Because if she leaves you hanging, it’s a forever one…

“It is, but that would be kind of funny at the same time.”

Either way you win!

“If it happens again, I’ll try to make something happen, I’ll go over and try and dap her up. For the culture.”

I’m going to start using “for the culture” to describe every action I take from now on. That is my new favorite line.

Caruso dapping up Rihanna would blow up NBA Twitter.

Caruso’s girlfriend may not enjoy it as much as the rest of it, but it has to happen. For the culture.

Mock NBA expansion draft: Warriors, Clippers, Lakers, Suns, Kings

Mock NBA expansion draft
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The NBA season is on hiatus. NBC Sports is not – even if we have to venture into fantasy.

We’re holding a mock NBA expansion draft. Keith Smith is setting protected lists for existing teams. Kurt Helin and Dan Feldman will run two new teams as this project culminates in an expansion draft.

Current teams can protect up to eight players. Each team must make at least one player available. If selected, restricted free agents become unrestricted free agents. Pending options can be decided before or after the expansion draft at the discretion of the option-holder. Anyone selected in the expansion draft can’t return to his prior team for one year. Players entering unrestricted free agency and players on two-way contracts are essentially ignored.

We’re unveiling protected/unprotected lists by division (here is the Atlantic Division and the Central Division). Players are listed with their 2020-21 salary. Up now, the Pacific:

Golden State Warriors

Protected – 8

Unprotected – 5

Ineligible – 0

Analysis: The Warriors have their core together with Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green and Andrew Wiggins. Ky Bowman, Marquese Chriss, Damion Lee and Eric Paschall provide value on minimum contracts. That’s all the Warriors need to protect.

Golden State wouldn’t mind seeing Kevon Looney or Jordan Poole selected to get the salaries off the cap sheet. The rest of the players are ones the Warriors won’t lose any sleep over if they’re drafted.

L.A. Clippers

Protected – 8

Unprotected – 2

Ineligible – 4

Analysis: L.A. has its main guys with four starters under contract. They aren’t being exposed here. The other three players are key bench contributors on good contracts. And Kabengele and Mann were just drafted. Easy decisions across the board for the Clippers.

L.A. could lose Green as a free agent. The Clippers also bet he does undrafted and could return. Rodney McGruder makes too much money for his role.

Los Angeles Lakers

Protected – 8

Unprotected – 2

Ineligible – 5

Analysis: The Lakers and Anthony Davis will work out that he’ll opt out before the expansion draft, which makes him ineligible. The rest of the players are role players that Los Angeles would rather keep around LeBron James than risk losing.

Los Angeles won’t be upset to see Quinn Cook or Rajon Rondo selected. They’re both replacement-level players for the Lakers at this point.

Phoenix Suns

Protected – 8

Unprotected – 5

Ineligible – 1

Analysis: Phoenix keeps it simple and protects all the guys who are part of its core. The Suns could have left Dario Saric unprotected, but by protecting Saric, they keep the flexibility to re-sign him as a restricted free agent. The rest are all easy decisions.

Of the unprotected players, none of have established themselves as NBA rotation players. If any are selected, Phoenix won’t lose any sleep over it.

Sacramento Kings

Protected – 8

Unprotected – 2

Ineligible – 4

Analysis: The Kings will protect their five starters and three key reserves. Cory Joseph is a decision-point, but considering De’Aaron Fox’s injury issues, Joseph is too valuable to let walk away.

Sacramento won’t mind if Jabari Parker is selected, but they aren’t going to pay anyone to do it. Justin James has been an interesting prospect, but the Kings won’t stress if he gets selected.