All of the Lakers on the current roster haven’t played with LeBron James outside of this season and the previous one. J.R. Smith is the exception to that, as Smith played around three-and-a-half seasons with James on the Cleveland Cavaliers. The pair went to four NBA Finals together and although they won a championship in 2016, Smith’s time on the Cavaliers is usually boiled down to a fatal mistake that he made during Game 1 of the 2018 NBA Finals. It prompted an extremely negative reaction from LeBron James, which I’m sure you’ve seen in memes thousands of times.
Smith was asked specifically about what differences he’s noticing with LeBron James’ approach to his coaches and teammates this go around, and had some interesting answers (quotes courtesy of Mike Trudell of the Lakers and Spectrum SportsNet).
Asked JR Smith to compare LeBron’s leadership style from Cleveland to today: “More than anything I just think he’s so much more patient in his delivery and how he goes about the process of the game … The pressure is off his shoulders, he can just be him."
— Mike Trudell (@LakersReporter) July 17, 2020
J.R. Smith’s full quote can be seen below:
“Before, he’s always been so focused on his drive and winning and stuff like that, but I feel like that pressure is off his shoulders, and he can just be him. He don’t have to try to orchestrate the offense or the defense or what somebody did wrong, he can let the coaches do their job, and I think that’s a true testament to him growing. I’ve watched interviews when people try to say he’s not coachable because he knows so much about the game, but he’s probably the most coachable person out there just because he gives you his side or his opinion and he might be right. More than anything I just think he’s so much more patient in his delivery and how he goes about the process of the game. If he sees something that he don’t like of course he’s going to say something, but I think he gives people more of a chance and an opportunity to voice their opinions and do their job.
In regards to the “problem for coaches” narrative that has followed LeBron James his entire career, Smith refutres that by saying he’s “probably the most coachable person”. Frank Vogel was also asked today about what it’s been like to coach James this season, with Vogel saying the following:
“He and I have established a great partnership. I rely on his input on day-to-day decisions.”
It’s refreshing to hear that LeBron can relax a little more a rely on the amazing Lakers’ coaching staff that has done a good job all season. Here’s to hoping that LeBron won’t have to yell at Smith anymore in their respective NBA careers.