We already knew that the Los Angeles Lakers had put both J.R. Smith and Dion Waiters through workouts on Monday morning as they look at options for their final roster spot before the playoffs.
But Waiters and Smith didn’t just work out for the team. According to Shams Charania of Stadium, both Waiters and Smith also met with the team’s front office brain trust of Lakers Vice President, Basketball Operations Rob Pelinka, head coach Frank Vogel and senior basketball advisor Kurt Rambis.
In a video for Stadium, Charania gave some details on what went on in those meetings:
“I’m told the big question from Lakers officials to both players was ‘are you willing and able to accept whatever role is asked?’ And I’m told both Waiters and Smith made clear that they are open and willing to accept whatever role on this championship-caliber team, and just [expressed] a happiness for being around an organization that has an opportunity here to compete for a title.”
Both Smith and Waiters committing to at least that much would seem to be the bare minimum for the Lakers to consider taking on either player. Doing so is likely an easy thing for Smith, who has been out of the league for the better part of a year and a half, but Waiters didn’t react so well the last time he was out of the rotation while with the Miami Heat.
As we rounded up earlier, Waiters started out the 2019-20 season by getting suspended for the Miami Heat’s opening game for “conduct detrimental to the team.” He responded to that suspension by taking shots at the team on Instagram, and was later given a 10-game suspension after having a panic attack following the ingestion of a “THC-infused edible” on the team plane.
Waiters apologized following that suspension, but was soon suspended a third time because he reportedly posted an Instagram photo of himself on a boat after telling Heat officials he could not practice or play because he was sick. He was ultimately salary-dumped to the Memphis Grizzlies, who waived him.
According to Charania, addressing all of that was a key part of Waiters’ post-workout chat with the Lakers:
“For Dion Waiters, the critical aspect was the meeting with Rob Pelinka, Frank Vogel and Kurt Rambis, and them getting a sense of his mentality. And I’m told Waiters really owned up to his mistakes and errors in Miami, explained to them what went wrong in Miami, and why things would change for the better with the Lakers. This follows the blueprint that Dwight Howard laid out in August before his agreement with the Lakers prior to the regular season.”
As Charania notes, the Lakers seem to be good at gauging the sincerity of these kinds of mea culpas, as the Howard signing has worked out better than essentially anyone but the Lakers believed it could. If they decide to go with Waiters, both he and they deserve the benefit of the doubt because of their past success here.
Still, it doesn’t sound like the Lakers will be making a decision anytime soon, as Charania noted again that “there is no timetable on a signing quite yet.” That makes sense, given that the Lakers still have weeks to decide before the postseason begins, even if they’d obviously want to probably give any player they do add a few weeks to adjust. Taking their time also allows the front office to continue to evaluate their options and see if any ill-timed injuries force them to add a player at a specific position.
Still, this is a step in the right direction, and exactly what the Lakers likely hoped to hear from both Waiters and Smith. Who they ultimately choose — if either — will be the final barometer for how much they believed in both players’ stated commitments to doing the right things, and how they looked in these workouts.