J.R. Smith is less than thrilled with his role coming off the Cleveland Cavaliers’ bench, he indicated in an exclusive interview with Joe Vardon of cleveland.com.
“Was working hard all summer and then coming in and not even really having a chance to earn my spot, but it’s alright,” Smith told Vardon. “It is what it is.”
Smith has lost his starting shooting guard job, for now, to Dwyane Wade, who signed with the Cavs last month. Wade is tight with LeBron James — and James told cleveland.com he had prepared Smith for the news.
“Was pretty much bracing myself for it,” Smith said.
Smith added to cleveland.com that losing his starting role was “absolutely” frustrating.
Smith and center Tristan Thompson were moved to reserve roles by Cavs coach Tyronn Lue to make room for newcomers. With Wade, Jae Crowder and Derrick Rose, the Cavs have three new starters. Also, Kevin Love switched from starting power forward to Thompson’s old role of starting center.
Smith told cleveland.com he has discussed the changes with Thompson.
“We talked about it,” Smith told cleveland.com. “It wasn’t the most positive conversation, but we talked about it and we’ll get through it together.”
Thompson, by the way, could become available in trade talks later in the season, depending on how he fares in his new role, sources have indicated to Amico Hoops.
“Me and JR, we know what we’ve brought to this team, what we’ve done the last three years, being in three Finals,” Thompson told cleveland.com. “But at the end of the day, to win a championship you’ve got to sacrifice. We both know that and coming off the bench in that second unit, you gotta be a spark.”
Smith scored one point on 0-of-6 shooting in his first preseason game off the bench in Tuesday’s loss to the Chicago Bulls. Iman Shumpert was the first guard off the bench.
Thompson fared considerably better, playing with great energy in scoring six points and grabbing five rebounds in his first 10 minutes in reserve. He finished with 11 boards.
Smith, 32, averaged 8.6 points in 41 games during a season that he would just as soon forget, given a major thumb injury and the premature birth of his daughter — both of which admittedly impacted his play.