Cleveland Cavaliers head coach Tyronn Lue announced last week that Dwyane Wade would be in the starting lineup when the team takes the court in their regular season opener on October 17 against the Boston Celtics.
This comes at the expense of Cavs veteran J.R. Smith, who will subsequently play an off-the-bench role due to the new acquisition. Wade and his new teammate LeBron James have already had a storied past during the two’s time in Miami, so it’s no surprise that with Wade coming to Cleveland, Lue will make the most of their chemistry.
But Smith is less than enthused. When asked if he was frustrated regarding the changes in the lineup, he responded with ”absolutely.” He elaborated, saying he “kind of knew” there was a possibility of becoming a sixth man when Cleveland signed Wade.
Speaking to local Cleveland reporter Joe Vardon, Smith also commented on how the conversation transpired.
“We talked about it. It wasn’t the most positive conversation, but we talked about it and we’ll get through it together.”
The most frustrating part of the situation for Smith had nothing to do with talent, but rather that he didn’t have much of an opportunity to fight for his starting role.
“[I] Was working hard all summer and then coming in and not even really having a chance to earn my spot, but it’s alright. It is what it is.”
Although he’s been in the starting lineup for each of the past three seasons, Smith spent much of the early stages of his career coming off the bench. In the 2012-2013 season for the New York Knicks, he averaged a solid 18.1 points per game, allowing him to win the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year award.
When discussing the transition to the second unit, Smith actually insisted that he enjoys the responsibility more. “I actually like playing on the second unit better; I’m more of a playmaker and distributor and I handle the ball a little bit more instead of just running to the corner,” he stated.
For a player that can shoot 37.4 percent from long range and manage to average 12.9 points a game off the bench, Smith would surely add depth to the Cleveland offense.
As it stands now, the Cavaliers will feature Dwyane Wade and Derrick Rose in their backcourt, but with Isaiah Thomas’ impending return, there will likely be a rotation between the four Cleveland ball handlers.