Lakers’ JR Smith believes LeBron James is much more patient now
After a rocky finish to their time together with the Cleveland Cavaliers, which resulted in one of the most memorable memes in NBA history, the relationship between JR Smith and LeBron James was put into question. Now that they have reunited on the Los Angeles Lakers in the NBA bubble, Smith has made some revealing comments about their relationship and the different side of LeBron that he sees in purple and gold.
On Friday morning, Smith spoke with the media over a Zoom call and talked about what’s different about LeBron’s leadership style at 35 in a Lakers uniform compared to when everything fell apart in the NBA Finals with the Cavs a few years ago.
“I’d say more than anything he’s more patient now,” Smith said of James. “I think when he was younger, he had that more of a shorter fuse with things I would say.
“Now, whether it be a good thing or a bad thing, he has changed his work ethic. I just think he’s more relatable and easier to get along with. Before, he was always so focused on his drive and winning and stuff like that, but I feel like that pressure is kind of off his shoulders, and he can just be him.
“He doesn’t have to orchestrate the offense or the defense or what somebody did wrong. He can let the coaches do their job. I think that a true testament to him growing. I watch interviews and stuff when people say he’s “not coachable” because he knows so much about the game, but he’s probably the most coachable person out there.
“More than anything I think he’s just so much more patient and his delivery and how he goes about the process of the game if he sees something he doesn’t like, of course, he’s going to say something, but I think he gives people more of a chance and opportunity to voice their opinion and do their job.”
Many believed that the relationship between these two NBA stars was strained due to the NBA Finals debacle in which Smith made a crucial mistake in the final moments of Game 1 against the Golden State Warriors. That doesn’t appear to be the case as Smith clearly still has a tight bond with the three-time NBA champion and isn’t afraid to confront one of the greatest players in league history.
As for James becoming one of a patient leader, that’s obviously a product of age and experience. LeBron has already accomplished so much in his basketball career and is in arguably the twilight of his playing days in Los Angeles while still remarkably playing a high level for a title-contending franchise and having another superstar, Anthony Davis, help shoulder the load in terms of the pressure that comes along with that.
Lakers head coach Frank Vogel has also been impressed with the way James has handled himself and how easy he is to coach this year, as he told the media on Friday.
“I can’t comment about how he’s been in the past, but he’s been extremely coachable for me and our coaching staff here this year, ” Vogel said of LeBron. “He and I have established a great partnership. I rely on his input on day-to-day decisions and the way we’re doing things.
‘Ultimately, I have to veto him in certain situations if we’ve got to make sure we’re not going too long in practice and whatnot, but he’s been absolutely wonderful. I mean, I couldn’t ask for anything better from his coachability standpoint.”
It’ll be interesting to see if this newfound patience James possesses remains the same if things start to go sideways at some point during the NBA playoffs for the Lakers or if Smith makes another mistake in a crucial moment. All may be rosy at the moment, but that could quickly change when the season and a potential fourth title is on the line for the man with aspirations to become the greatest player of all time.