CLEVELAND (92.3 the Fan) – J.R. Smith had a familiar confidence, a familiar swag about him at shoot around on Tuesday morning. There is not a ton to be read into shoot-arounds, but Smith’s manner had been lacking in the first 10 games, which made it noticeable.
The smile was back, the goofing around was back, and the 3-point shot was definitely back. That carried over to Tuesday night’s win over the Bucks.
On a night where the Cavaliers took another step forward defensively, yet still needed to outgun their opponent to win, Smith dropped 20 on 7-of-12 from the field and 5-of-7 from deep. The swingman entered the night with an eFG% of 36%, despite never having shot lower than 45% in his career.
Smith shared a pair of epiphanies he had over the course of the past 24 hours, one before shootaround, another pre-game. Both involved his approach, and both came while consulting with his family.
The 32-year-old husband and father of three said that he had been bringing the struggles of his poor start home, which carried over. Smith admitted that he took losing too hard, and that his family did not deserve to be neglected.
“I can’t take the court home with me. I can’t stay up at night thinking about the game, watching the game, watching highlights, watching what people are saying, things like that,” Smith said. “When I’m here, (I have to) give my time to my teammates, my coaching staff and organization. When I’m home, give my time to my family and be able to diffuse the whole situation.”
His role has changed over his career, originally a high-flying swingman that turned himself into a marksman who passed Rashard Lewis on the all-time 3-point field goals made list on Tuesday. Smith said he had now become a defender-first, with an evolving roster around him.
“On this team, obviously we’ve got enough playmakers and guys who can score,” he said.
The problem was that the team needed his scoring, something that was obvious on Tuesday. Luckily Smith had his second epiphany on the way back to the Q, which was to shoot every time he touched the ball.
“I thought about it on my way to the arena today,” he said. “Talked to my dad, talked to my mom, pretty much like I always do on the way to the arena. I was like, ‘you know what, the hell with it, I’m just going to back to my old way of playing, just shoot, shoot, shoot.’”
It worked. Smith’s 3-point barrage opened up the paint for Kevin Love to score 32 points without shooting a triple of his own. LeBron James was able to work inside to the tune of 30 points on 10-of-20 from the floor with nine assists.
James joked that the success was because Smith finally agreed to wear the LeBron 15s, after much deliberation between the pair.