J.R. Smith is putting up numbers with the Cavaliers — he’s averaging 14.2 points a game, taking the majority of his shots from beyond the arc and hitting 39.7 percent of them in his last 10 games. Smith is still far from efficient (shooting 39.9 percent with the Cavaliers) but he’s fitting in and playing a little better than he did in New York.
Why? Well, playing with LeBron James helps (he’s a superstar who is a more willing passer than the last superstar Smith played with). Plus guys like Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love draw defenders to give him open looks from three, plus there is more depth in Cleveland.
Or, maybe it’s that he parties less because this is Cleveland and not Manhattan.
“I think this is the best situation for me, ’cause there’s nothing but basketball. There’s nothing you expect but basketball. There’s nothing, there’s no going out, there’s no late nights. There’s video games, basketball and basketball. So it’s a great thing, ’cause I go back to where I came from. When I grew up, I never, I wasn’t allowed to go out. I missed my prom because I went to an AAU tournament, and all that stuff. For me, it was basketball, basketball, basketball. And then when I got in the situation where I was at an early age, it was more, alright, let me see what this life is about, as opposed to just keep going. So now, I get the chance to get back to my roots….
I always made myself better by staying in the gym. When you replace that with stuff off the court, then you’re taking away from what made you who you are, or what got you to a certain point. It was kind of pulling me down in a sense, of not getting enough rest, not doing things you’re supposed to be doing, things you’re used to doing. So when you start missing those shots you’re supposed to make, especially wide-open shots, it was like, alright, what’s going on, what’s going on? Instead of looking at what it is, you’re reverting to that even more, instead of going back to the basics. So I think that’s the greatest part about being here.”
NBA players are fully capable of getting in trouble in any market, and is Smith wants it there is trouble to be found in Cleveland. That said, Smith was a notoriously bad player on those Sunday afternoon games the Knicks often host at Madison Square Garden, and one may have to work a little harder to find the late night spots and trouble in Cleveland.
Or, maybe the jolt of reality going from the lowly Knicks to a Cavaliers team that is starting to resemble what was envisioned for it before the season — the team is on a seven-game winning streak and playing improved defense — could have him focusing on the game. That and the leadership of LeBron James, an old friend, could keep Smith in line.
We’ll let this one play out before saying any new leafs have been turned over, or any other such cliché. At this point in his career Smith is what Smith is, an unrepentant gunner, just one that the Cavs may be able to use to their advantage.