The Los Angeles Lakers have entered the preliminary stages of finalizing a deal with J.R. Smith, two people familiar with the situation told USA TODAY Sports. The people were granted anonymity since they did not have authority to speak on an internal matter.
The Lakers will eventually add Smith to their roster as a replacement player for Avery Bradley, who informed them last week that he would not play the resumed season in Orlando beginning on July 30. He told ESPN he had concerns about his 6-year-old son’s history with respiratory illnesses.
The Lakers will not be able to officially sign Smith until July 1.
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According to the NBA’s 113-page health and safety protocols, any player signed to a contract after June 23 has to “complete the Medical History Questionnaire, undergo the Medical History Review, and undergo coronavirus testing in a manner as consistent as possible with players beginning testing on June 23, 2020.” That testing procedure includes taking at least three negative PCR tests over at least five days prior to when that player begins any workouts.
Lakers players were tested on June 23 for both the coronavirus and its antibodies.
Smith, 34, has not played for an NBA team this season after the Cleveland Cavaliers waived him last summer. But the Lakers were impressed with a workout Smith participated in earlier this season. Smith also has extensive history with LeBron James in Cleveland, making four Finals appearances and winning the 2016 title against the Golden State Warriors.
The Lakers won’t necessarily rely on Smith to fill Bradley’s absence. Bradley was considered one of the team’s best defenders, and will be replaced by a combination of Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Smith and Danny Green. But Smith can give the Lakers some additional secondary scoring.