The Lakers See J.R. Smith As More Than a Meme

It’s easy to dismiss J.R. Smith as a punchline of a shooting guard. But there’s a reason why Los Angeles is adding the veteran for the stretch run—and it’s not for the jokes.

Smith, 34, last played in the NBA for the Cavaliers in November 2018. Without LeBron James, Smith and the team had grown apart. Cleveland was pushing for a buyout amid a rebuild. The idea was quickly rejected by Smith, who twice asked to be traded instead. He said, “I don’t want my legacy to be remembered like that in Cleveland. I don’t think that’s fair to the people I see every single day walking around the arena.” (The buyout would’ve also meant sacrificing money from his four-year, $57 million contract.) The Cavs extradited Smith after that, thanked him for his time, and forced him off the NBA grid.