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Lakers add veteran J.R. Smith for Orlando championship push

LOS ANGELES (AP) — J.R. Smith has joined LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers for their championship push.

The Lakers announced their long-anticipated signing of Smith as a substitute player Wednesday, the first day allowed under the rules of the NBA’s summer restart.

Smith is the Lakers’ replacement for Avery Bradley, who cited family reasons last week for his decision not to finish the season with his team in Orlando.

The 34-year-old Smith hasn’t played in the NBA since November 2018, but the 2013 Sixth Man of the Year is a longtime trusted teammate of James. During their four years together with the Cleveland Cavaliers, they won a title in 2016 and reached four consecutive NBA Finals.

Bradley was a starter and a key role player in his first season with the Lakers, averaging 8.6 points per game and playing solid wing defense. But the Western Conference-leading Lakers also excelled while Bradley missed 13 games due to injury, with Kentavious Caldwell-Pope capably filling the role.

Smith is a 15-year NBA veteran but he has been out of the league since the Cavaliers dropped him early in their first season after James’ move to Los Angeles.

Smith worked out for the Lakers in February before the club signed Dion Waiters, who didn’t get to suit up for the Lakers before the coronavirus pandemic suspended the season.

Smith’s perimeter defense and 3-point shooting fit well into the Lakers’ plans, even if he is likely to play only a supporting role in Orlando. Bradley’s minutes are expected to be mostly taken up by Caldwell-Pope and Alex Caruso, with Waiters and Smith providing depth while the Lakers pursue their franchise’s 17th championship.

Smith is ninth in NBA history with 288 career playoff 3-pointers made while hitting 37% of his 3-point shots. He is fourth in league history in NBA Finals 3-pointers made.

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