Dribbles: Smith, Waiters show why Lakers decided to give them a shot

Sam Amico

Random dribbles following the Lakers' 123-116 exhibition win over the Washington Wizards on Monday.

1. This was the final tuneup before the real thing begins -- or as as close to as "real" as it's gonna get these days. So it's no surprise that LeBron James and Anthony Davis sat it out.

2. Nor did the Lakers have Dwight Howard (eye) and Kyle Kuzma (ankle). Both injuries are considered very minor. Like James and Davis, Howard and Kuzma probably would've skipped this one anyway.

3. All of it offered more of an opportunity for the likes of guards Alex Caruso, Dion Waiters and (you guessed it) J.R. Smith. All three did a nice job making an impression.

4. Caruso started and showed he hasn't forgotten how to run the offense. Waiters and Smith brought some energy off the bench, and that will be their roles for the eight seeding games and especially, in the playoffs.

5. Waiters also did a very underrated job of keep things moving, admirably and perhaps surprisingly filling in for James as a playmaker.

6. Overall, Waiters finished with 18 points, six assists and three rebounds. He signed with the Lakers just before the NBA hiatus in March, and they are starting to look like a good match.

7. Waiters, Smith, Howard and a few others are the type of players LeBron-led teams always seem to land. They are guys whose best years may be behind them -- but can help in a playoff pinch. And when you are talking championship, they are the type of players who can mean a lot.

8. Waiters talked about how he has a new appreciation for the game and how he is more focused in LA. You can read that story here.

9. Lakers coach Frank Vogel on the idea Waiters and Smith made a case to be a regular part of the rotation: "They both definitely did."

10. Vogel also offered praise for Caruso. "Alex is a vital piece to our championship aspirations," Vogel said. "He's just so well-rounded."

11. It's hard to take much away from this game, considering the Lakers were missing their two biggest reasons for hope and two other key pieces. But it again showed this is a deep, versatile team with lots of options.

12. Smith went 4-of-5 on 3-pointers, burying each of his first three. He scored 14 points in the first half. He actually looks to be in better shape than Waiters -- this despite the fact Smith has been entirely out since November 2018.

13. Again, you can't judge too much when it comes to these meaningless games, but it's become pretty evident that the Lakers need some work on defense. Aside from the shotblocking of Davis and JaVale McGee, they're not making life very difficult for the opposition. Right now, the Lakers are just outscoring people.

14. As noted by Tania Ganguli of the LA Times, this was considered the Lakers' first home game on the Disney campus. Afterward, "I Love LA" blared from the sound system.

15. Well, that's a wrap. It's on to the restart of the season on Thursday, when the Lakers face the Clippers. Tipoff is scheduled for 9 EST and will be televised by TNT.

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