J.R. Smith has been through a lot throughout his NBA career. The 33 year old guard has gone from star sixth man, to laughingstock, to title-winning role player, and back again. That journey has gifted him with the perspective and insight that only can come from experience.
In a tremendous interview with Jesse Washington of The Undefeated, Smith opened up about his journey to this point in his career. The off the court issues, adversity he has faced growing up, as well as his now infamous gaffe in Game 1 of the 2018 NBA Finals.
But in his reflecting, Smith also addressed his new mindset this season. Speaking towards the role he can play with the Cavaliers:
“More than anything, I want to help the younger guys,” Smith says. “More than guys helped me when I was coming up, you know? Help them with managing time. Most often, basketball will take care itself. You got talent, you got skill, that will take care of its own. But, just off the court, you know? Managing time, teaching the rights from wrongs.”
This is certainly an admirable goal for Smith. He came into the league with a tremendous amount of skill and talent, but seemed to be held back as a result of decision making.
Over his years in the league, Smith has settled down and into the role of veteran bench presence. While there still are the occasional gaffes and his play has dropped off, there aren’t the same off the court concerns as there used to be.
The fit of Smith on this roster is a bit of an odd one. The team is loaded with guards that will all deserve playing time. With J.R. being on the downside of his career and not being a core piece for the future, it makes it difficult to justify him getting the minutes he’s accustomed to.
The most obvious way for this to shake out is for Smith to be traded at some point this season. He was an essential piece to the Cavs championship team and his contributions will never be forgotten. However, it’s probably in the best interest of both parties if they parted ways and sent him to a team that could use his services.
In the meantime, if Smith takes on the role of mentor as he waits for his next chapter, that would be a tremendously positive development for the team. The transition from a title-or-bust mentality to a rebuilding/re-tooling will be a tough one for the Cavs veterans. Hopefully this mindset helps benefit Smith for the remainder of his time with the franchise.