J.R. Smith, Tyronn Lue give conflicting accounts of benching communication

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J.R. Smith made clear he was frustrated by losing his starting job to Dwyane Wade to begin the season. Smith regained it after a few games, and the Cavaliers traded Wade.

But Smith has struggled in his desired role. He’s too reluctant to shoot and still barely making 3-pointers at a league-average percentage. With narrow offensive responsibilities, he turns the ball over too often. His defense has slipped. And his problems have extended off the court, most infamously with a soup throw.

So, Cleveland coach Tyronn Lue replaced Smith as starting shooting guard with Kyle Korver. Once healthy, Rodney Hood will get the job.

Dave McMenamin of ESPN:

Lue said that he and Smith had a positive talk about the lineup change.

“It was good,” Lue said.

Smith said that there was no conversation with his coach about the move.

“We didn’t talk,” Smith told ESPN. “He sent me a text [Monday], and I told him, ‘No problem.’ I didn’t know that it was a ‘talk.'”

Smith acknowledged he was surprised by the change.

“That’s all right, though,” Smith said. “I’m not upset about it. I just wish there would have been more dialogue, I guess.”

The Cavaliers have bigger issues than Smith’s and Lue’s relationship. Start with anything directly involving LeBron James.

But these conflicts can spread. Smith has previously extolled his communication with Lue. This is a stark departure.

Maybe Lue should have done more than send a text – and maybe he did. This is only Smith’s side of the story. Smith would likely be upset to lose his starting job no matter how it happened.

The Cavs must move on now. The problem: Hood has also struggled with Cleveland. Maybe starting will get him going. The Cavaliers spent most of the season trying to get Smith on track, and it didn’t work. Prioritizing Hood now isn’t a bad idea, though it might have been done tactfully enough.