J.R. Smith

Associated Press

J.R. Smith said when things got bad he considered asking Tyronn Lue to sit him

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Tuesday night against OKC, J.R. Smith looked like the dangerous wing shooter and player the Cavaliers had back when they won an NBA title in 2016. Smith was 6-of-9 from three for 18 points and made some key plays in Cleveland’s fourth straight win, second with the new-look roster.

However, Smith is legendarily streaky with his shot and during some of the dark days with the Cavaliers — you know, like a couple of weeks ago — Smith’s shot was not falling, and he told ESPN’s Dave McMenamin he considered asking Tyronn Lue to sit him.

“There were times when I wanted to go to [Lue] and be like, ‘Listen, man, I’m not playing well. Why not take me out?'” said Smith, who in 14 games this season has scored three points or fewer. “Fortunately, I didn’t and just stuck with it. I’ve known T-Lue since my rookie year. Our relationship is based on communication — how he communicates with me, how I communicate with him. He’s been really consistent at that.”

Lue is loyal and sticks with the players he trusts and the schemes he likes. To a fault sometimes, but loyalty can have its rewards.

Smith has figured out how to play next to LeBron, which is why he fits better on the first unit. Larry Nance Jr. and Jordan Clarkson can play with LeBron, but they also have their own chemistry which can generate some good looks without LeBron facilitating. Put Rodney Hood and Kyle Korver next to Clarkson and Nance and you have a second unit that at the start of the fourth pulled away from Oklahoma City in a way the starters could not.

Smith is going to be a key figure in however deep the Cavaliers go in the playoffs this season.

LeBron James scores 37, Cavaliers knock off Thunder 120-112

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OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — LeBron James scored 37 points, and the new-look Cleveland Cavaliers got a much different result this time against the Oklahoma City Thunder in a 120-112 victory on Tuesday night.

It was Cleveland’s second straight win since adding George Hill, Rodney Hood, Jordan Clarkson and Larry Nance Jr. in trades, and their fourth straight victory overall.

J.R. Smith added 18 points for the Cavaliers, who lost to the Thunder 148-124 on Jan. 20 with a very different roster.

Paul George scored 25 points and Carmelo Anthony 24 for the Thunder. Steven Adams added 22 points and 17 rebounds, and Russell Westbrook scored 21 points. Westbrook and Anthony had missed the past two games with sprained ankles.

James scored 14 points in the first five minutes of the third quarter, including two 3-pointers, to give Cleveland a 78-68 lead. He was 6 for 6 from the field during that stretch. The Thunder responded with an 8-0 run to get back into the game. Cleveland took a 91-87 edge into the fourth quarter.

The Cavaliers took control in the fourth, and a layup by James after driving on George pushed the Cavaliers ahead 115-106 with 49 seconds to play.

The Thunder trimmed their deficit to five in the final minute and could have come closer, but Alex Abrines missed a 3-pointer, and Nance got free for a dunk to seal the win for Cleveland.

The Cavaliers led 62-57 at halftime. James had 16 points, four rebounds and five assists, and Smith had 15 points on five 3-pointers. Adams scored 15 points before the break for Oklahoma City.

 

 

J.R. Smith dunks on, stares down Aron Baynes (video)

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In November, J.R. Smith said the Cavaliers wouldn’t pay attention to the hot-starting Celtics until after the All-Star break.

I think Cleveland’s bold trades might have energized Smith a little sooner, as this dunk on Aron Baynes in the Cavs’ rout of Boston yesterday exemplifies.

Marc J. Spears of The Undefeated:

BOSTON – Cleveland Cavaliers general manager Koby Altman proudly waited outside the visiting locker room after the final buzzer to give LeBron James and the players on his victorious new-look team an appreciative fist pound on Sunday afternoon. Injured forward Kevin Love yelled out, “There you go! There you go.” Sharpshooter Kyle Korver gave a look of pleasant surprise. Guard J.R. Smith yelled out, “We got an [expletive] squad now.” And before James hit the locker room door, former NBA great Kevin Garnett hugged him and said, “Y’all look so different.”

Three Things to Know: It’s just one game, but new-look Cavaliers impress

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Every day in the NBA there is a lot to unpack, so every weekday morning throughout the season we will give you the three things you need to know from the last 24 hours in the NBA.

1) New-look Cavaliers impress, blow-out Celtics in first game.
Things looked different — Cleveland actually tried on defense, for one. George Hill was solid defending pick-and-rolls creating turnovers with his length, plus made the extra rotation — and when he did so did J.R. Smith. And LeBron James. The Cavaliers blitzed Kyrie Irving at times, but what was impressive is the guys rotating behind that blitz. All-season long that had been lacking in Cleveland and it led them to have the second-worst defense in the NBA, but on Sunday afternoon in Boston the effort was there.

Combine that with a near triple-double from LeBron James, and 17 from Jordan Clarkson, and you got a Cleveland rout of Boston in the first game for the new-look Cavaliers.

Here is the obligatory “don’t read too much into one game” disclaimer. I want to see what Cleveland looks like after some practices during the All-Star break, and a couple of weeks of games together — and when teams get some scouting reports on them and game plan a little.

But for one game, the Cavaliers where impressive. And it wasn’t just the defense. The Cavaliers dropped 64 points in the first half on the best defense in the NBA this season, then put the game away with an 11-0 fourth-quarter run. It was such an easy win LeBron sat the fourth quarter, a rarity this season. Hill had 12 points and ran the pick-and-roll with LeBron like a veteran (better than LeBron and Isaiah Thomas ever did), Nance brought energy, and the entire thing fit.

Here’s the thing that most should worry the rest of the East — LeBron looked like he was having fun again. He was energized. And an energized and smiling LeBron is a force of nature.

2) Paul Pierce gets his jersey retired by Celtics. After that game — one a lot of Boston fans would have left early had it not been for this — Paul Pierce’s number 34 jersey was retired by the Celtics. Deservedly so. He is the greatest Celtics since the Bird era, and he helped bring another banner to Boston. Check out the highlights here (and if you want to see the entire hour ceremony, follow this link).

3) Utah routs Trail Blazers for a ninth straight win, Utah back in the playoff mix. Rudy Gobert is back and the Jazz defense is stifling, Ricky Rubio has found his comfort level in Quin Snyder’s offense (although he was out Sunday), Donovan Mitchell looks like the Rookie of the Year, and the Utah Jazz are back.

Sunday that was because of Joe Ingles, who dropped a career-high 24 points, then the rookie Mitchell knocking down his final three shots and a few free throws to end the game and cap off a 27-point night. The Jazz opened the second half on a 22-5 run and won the third 38-19 to give them a lead that Damian Lillard (39 points) could not make up. For Utah, it was a good sign that just-acquired Jae Crowder looked comfortable scoring 15 points and going 3-of-7 from three (he had started to find his shot near the end in Cleveland).

This was a huge win in the standings.

Written off a few weeks back, Utah went into Portland Sunday and beat the Trail Blazers handily 115-96. The win improves the Jazz to 28-28 and has them just 1.5 points out of the playoffs in the West — there are now only 2.5 games separating six-seed Portland and 10-seed Utah. The bottom of the West is going to be the race to watch — fivethirtyeight.com has Utah with an 89 percent chance of climbing into and making the playoffs (with the Nuggets and Trail Blazers grabbing the other two spots at 64 percent, which would leave the Clippers and Pelicans on the outside looking in).

Report: Cavaliers trade Dwyane Wade (to Heat!), Jae Crowder (to Utah), get Rodney Hood and George Hill

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Crunched by the disastrous results of the Kyrie Irving trade so far and LeBron James‘ impending free agency, the Cavaliers are undergoing a massive overhaul.

They already traded the destructive Isaiah Thomas to the Lakers (with Channing Frye and a protected first-round pick for Larry Nance Jr. and Jordan Clarkson). Now, the other rotation player in the Irving trade – Jae Crowder, who has disappointed in Cleveland – is going to the Jazz in a three-team trade involving the Kings.

Oh, and Dwyane Wade is returning to the Heat.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

Sam Amick of USA Today:

Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports:

The Cavs sold low on Crowder, who’s locked into a team-friendly contract (due $7,305,825 and $7,815,533 the next two years) if he’s playing well. But at least they got good return.

George Hill will likely start at point guard and will be a HUGE upgrade defensively over Thomas. Hill is also more comfortable off the ball than Thomas, which is important with LeBron. Hill is owed a lot of money, but that – and the Kings’ losing – was why he was available.

Rodney Hood could start at shooting guard the way J.R. Smith has played this season. Hood is also a good spot-up 3-point shooter, again a skill enhanced by LeBron.

Both guards should be invigorated by their fresh start on a contender. The Cavaliers desperately need that fresh attitude.

They also needed Wade less after getting Clarkson, who should take over as lead playmaker on reserve units. Clarkson’s role makes much more sense now. How LeBron feels about losing his good friend Wade is another question, but it seems Wade signed off on this trade.

Wade’s Miami homecoming will be emotional, and this erases the tension between him and Pat Riley. Wade might even help the Heat on the court with Dion Waiters out for the season. In limited minutes, Wade can attack the basket and distribute.

The Jazz get Crowder after coveting him a while. If he returns to the form he showed with the Celtics, this will be a great trade. If not… at least Hood and Joe Johnson weren’t long-term pieces anyway.

The Kings clear $8,988,766 in future salary – Hill’s guarantees minus Iman Shumpert‘s $11,011,234 player option for next season. Johnson, on an expiring contract, is a prime buyout candidate. The pick and straight cash (homie) also help Sacramento.

This might be the end of Derrick Rose‘s career, one that included an MVP but so many injury-fueled lows since. He’s just 29, but I’m not sure he has the desire to keep playing. I’m not sure a team has the desire to sign him.