Connect with us

NBA

Cavaliers Have Smith Ready To Go From Start

With no contract negotiations to hold him back from starting the year out with Cleveland, J.R. Smith will make his presence felt immediately.

Spencer Davies

Published

on

With as crazy of an offseason as the NBA had this summer, it’s only appropriate that the final big move made reunited two best friends who made magic happen in Miami together.

For the first time since 2014, Dwyane Wade and LeBron James are joining forces as a part of the Cleveland Cavaliers. This time, it’s at a later stage in their careers with a different franchise in a different city.

The news isn’t surprising for the wine and gold, a team that has bolstered its roster with talent behind first-year general manager Koby Altman. But as much as the fresh additions will help the Cavaliers in their pursuit of a second championship, so will the presence of J.R. Smith.

Due to ongoing contract negotiations at this point last season, Smith was not with the team for the start of training camp. This time around it’s a different story.

“I was here, I just wasn’t here,” Smith said at media day on Monday. “I was around the team. I was kickin’ it with the guys and stuff like that. I just wasn’t able to do this (media day), which I really don’t like to do anyway.”

Talking to reporters about happenings within the locker room and on the court has never been Smith’s favorite thing to partake in, but he admitted being away from the practice floor took its toll on him.

“It was tough,” Smith said. “Because when you’re not there from day one of training camp to the first game—when I came in we played one preseason game at Ohio State then we got right to the season.

“It was extremely tough. My timing and stuff was off, but now that I get to have a vocal impact as well as just being there for the guys, I think it’ll be much better.”

Tristan Thompson can relate to the same situation. One year before Smith, he had a similar predicament while Cleveland and his agent attempted to reach terms on an agreement.

Now that both he and his teammate have earned those deals, there won’t be any holdup, which makes things much smoother to transition into the start of the season.

“He looks good,” Thompson said. “He’s defending at a high level, making threes like he always does. It’s great to have Swish back. This time last year, Swish was at all of the Indians and Browns games, so I’m glad he’s at practice this year.”

Cavaliers head coach Tyronn Lue shares the same sentiments. This is the first time in his two-and-a-half year tenure that Cleveland hasn’t had a contract holdout to begin training camp.

“It’s just part of the NBA,” Lue said. “It’s a business. We understand that. It happens. You don’t like for it to happen, but it happens. The most important thing is everybody’s here now.

“It’s a big difference,” Lue said of Smith being there from the jump. “He’s been our starting two guard for the last two years. Been a very important part of what we do.”

Most see Smith as the super confident shooter who can’t be cooled down when he gets hot, but Lue believes the crucial part of his game comes on the defensive end. In the playoffs, he drew matchups with All-Star wings DeMar DeRozan and Paul George and did his part to limit them.

Here’s the question on many people’s minds: Does Smith remain in the starting lineup for the third straight year or will he take a sixth man role with Wade and the others’ arrivals?

“As long as we win, I don’t care honestly,” Smith said. “If anything, it prolongs my career. I don’t got to do as much. I ain’t got to chase that many defenders around, so instead of me playing 18 years I can get to 20, 21 years.

“I don’t think it’ll affect my situation. I’mma go out and ball, guard the best, [be a] perimeter defender and stretch the floor, so if he’s in and I’m not, we’ll figure it out.”

Smith isn’t exactly sure how the situation will shake out, but knows how much Cleveland benefits as a whole. There will be no hard feelings about any of it.

“If anything, it makes us stronger,” Smith said. “Whether I come off the bench or he comes off the bench, however it works. I don’t really focus on it, honestly. This is my 14th year coming up and I’ve had a lot of BS in my past, so I don’t plan to bring that to the Cavs.

“At the end of the day, it really doesn’t matter. It matters who’s in there in the crunch. I’m not going to really focus on if I’m starting or if I’m not. I’m still going to be able to play. If coach needs me to start, I’ll start. If he needs me to come off the bench, I’ll come off the bench.

“I’m not going to sit here and get into a blank measuring contest with Dwyane Wade. I’m not going to win that, so I’m not going to do that. I’m going to continue to work hard with my team. However they choose to do it, that’s what it’s going to be.”

The depth of this Cavaliers team is going to make it easier on a lot of players to get the proper amount of rest and take care of their bodies throughout a rigorous 82-game season. In fact, Smith thinks the roster might be overloaded with talent to take off some pressure.

“It does that tremendously,” Smith said. “It almost does it a little too much, so guys got to stay ready. Obviously got to keep it professional and do what we do. Standing on the side, guys tend to get stiff or whatever, but we just got to stay loose and be ready when our name is called.”

Like his teammates, Smith has all the faith in the world in Lue to manage his squad. He’ll have some experimenting to do with versatile rotations and distributing minutes among those guys.

Regardless of that, it’s hard to complain about lineups when you have superstar-caliber talent.

“Then again, we’ve got Bron on our side too,” Smith said. “And Kev, so I’m pretty confident with that group.”

Adding Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, Derrick Rose and Wade to that mix, there’s no reason not to be.

Spencer Davies is an NBA writer based in Cleveland in his first year with Basketball Insiders. Covering the league and the Cavaliers for the past two seasons, his bylines have appeared on Bleacher Report, FOX Sports and HoopsHype.

Advertisement




Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

NBA

Mavs Guard Devin Harris on Personal Leave from Team

Basketball Insiders

Published

on

Guard Devin Harris will take an indefinite leave from the Dallas Mavericks after the tragic death of his brother, Bruce.

“I was with him yesterday and just encouraged him that when he’s ready to come on back,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “I don’t know when that will be. He can take as long as he needs.”

Source: Tim MacMahon of ESPN

Continue Reading

NBA

NBA PM: Patrick Beverley Set the Tone for Clippers in Season Opener

Patrick Beverley set the tone for the L.A. Clippers with his aggressive defense in their season opener.

Jesse Blancarte

Published

on

“The LA Clippers are going to the Western Conference Finals. Guaranteed.”

That bold statement was made by Charles Barkley during TNT’s coverage of last night’s matchup between the Lakers and Clippers.

While Barkley may have had his hot take canon primed and in mid-season form, that should not overshadow the fact that the Los Angeles Clippers put together a strong showing in their first regular season game since the departure of Chris Paul.

Blake Griffin logged 29 points, 12 rebounds, three assists, two steals and knocked down three of his six three-point attempts. Griffin was aggressive and showed no hesitation on his jumper, which seemed to open up lanes for him to drive to the basket (where he is most effective). DeAndre Jordan was fantastic as well, contributing 14 points, 24 rebounds, one assist and one steal.

While the Clippers lost some significant contributors from last season, including J.J. Redick, Luc Mbah a Moute and Jamal Crawford, the team had some returning and new players show that they are capable of filling the void.

Milos Teodosic was just 2-9 from the field, but knocked down two three-pointers and looked comfortable and effective running the team’s offense. Danilo Gallinarni shot just 3-13 from the field but looked healthy and spry, displaying the kind of mobility that is necessary to play the small forward position. His ability to act as a secondary playmaker wasn’t on full display, but there were moments where it was apparent that he could be a big help in generating open looks for his teammates. Lou Williams also looked good in his Clippers debut, scoring in a variety of ways off the bench and contributing six assists as well. Wesley Johnson continues to look confident and aggressive, a continuation from his preseason performances, and is starting to knock down the open shots his teammates are creating for him (which has been a problem for him in the past).

While the Clippers looked solid in their opening act without Paul, it should be noted that the Lakers are a young team overall and their defense has been a major problem for the last few seasons. While the Lakers have added some promising young talent over the offseason, like most young teams, they are going to struggle to slow down veteran teams with potent offenses. It would be a mistake to think the Clippers can replicate this sort of offensive performance every night, especially against the better defensive teams in the league. However, perhaps the most promising part of the Clippers’ season debut was the fact that they seemed to feed off of and embrace the gritty demeanor and style of play that Patrick Beverley brings to the court each and every night.

Last night’s game was the NBA debut for rookie point guard Lonzo Ball, who many predict will develop into a star player. Unfortunately for Ball, his opening night matchup came against Beverley, who earned a spot on the 2017 All-Defensive First Team. Beverley repeatedly guarded Ball past half court, pushed him around and did everything he could to throw him off of his game. He held Ball to three points, nine rebounds and four assists in 29 minutes of action.

Beverley, like every NBA player, has heard the hype and noise surrounding Ball and his future in the league (most of it from his outspoken father, LaVar).

“I just had to set the tone,” Beverley said. “I told him after the game that due to all the riffraff his dad brings, that he’s going to get a lot of people coming at him. I let him know that after the game. What a better way to start than spending 94 feet guarding him tonight — welcome the young guy to the NBA.”

Beverley is one of the more aggressive defenders in the NBA and is known for trying to get under the skin of his opponents, so Lonzo may not face this level of intensity in every game. But based on Beverley’s comments, it’s clear that he expects other players around the league to defend Lonzo aggressively as well.

Snoop Dogg, the rapper and passionate Lakers fan, summed up the issue for Ball arguably better than anyone else has so far.

“His father put him in the lion’s den with pork chop drawers on,” said Snoop.

For his part, Lonzo complimented Beverley on his aggressive defense.

“[Beverley] plays hard. He knows his job. He does it very well,” said Ball. “He gets under people’s skin and plays defense and does what he can to help his team win.”

Beverley set the tone for the Clippers, who looked crisp and confident throughout the game. Griffin’s three-point shot looks like it could finally be a reliable part of his offensive arsenal. Jordan was very active on the glass, pulling down 24 rebounds (possibly inspired in part by his commitment to donate $100 per rebound this season to help the effort to rebuild his hometown of Houston after the damage inflicted by Hurricane Harvey). The rest of the supporting cast played with the sort of cohesion and confidence that takes at least a few weeks into the season to develop. Again, the Clippers’ performance could have stemmed primarily from the Lakers’ shaky defense, but it was encouraging to see the team play with such force and confidence in the absence of Paul.

The Western Conference is extremely talented and deep, so it’s unlikely that the Clippers will make it to the Western Conference Finals as Barkley predicted. However, challenging for a spot in the playoffs and perhaps even doing some damage once there seems to be in the realm of possibility. This is especially the case considering how much of an impact Beverley had Thursday night, both defensively and in setting the tone for the rest of his new teammates.

Continue Reading

NBA

Morris Bringing Leadership To Celtics

Marcus Morris chats with Basketball Insiders for a one-on-one exclusive.

Spencer Davies

Published

on

Returning just one starter from last year’s top-seeded team in the Eastern Conference, the Boston Celtics underwent wholesale changes this past offseason.

Gordon Hayward signed a super max contract. Danny Ainge pried Kyrie Irving away from the Cleveland Cavaliers in a blockbuster deal. Jayson Tatum was selected with the third overall pick in the NBA Draft.

In early July, though, there was an under-the-radar trade executed that hasn’t been mentioned much. Surprisingly, Celtics guard Avery Bradley was sent to the Detroit Pistons in exchange for Marcus Morris, a heady wing with size and versatility to add to a revamped core of players.

Bradley was a mainstay with the franchise for seven years and played a vital role as a part of Brad Stevens’ system, but Boston decided to move in a different direction. As for the man they got in return, he’s thrilled to be there.

“It makes me feel good,” Morris told Basketball Insiders of Ainge dealing one of his best former players for him. “It makes you feel wanted.

“This is my first time since I’ve been in the NBA I’ve been on a team with a bunch of guys that [are] All-Stars. With the maturity of the team being this high and having them high expectations on us, I’m excited to get the season going and see how far we can take this.”

The Detroit Pistons likely wanted to keep him, but the organization clearly felt Bradley’s skill set was too good to pass up. For Morris, he insisted there was no indication that his old team would send him away, but he hasn’t been bashful about talking up his new home.

“Had no idea that I was gonna be a Boston Celtic, but I’m ready for the challenge, you know?” Morris said. “I’m excited. Boston, being a Celtic—it’s something that growing up you don’t really see happening, but when it happens it’s an amazing thing.

“It’s like playing for the Patriots, you know what I mean? One of the most heralded teams and most heralded franchises, and Boston is one of those.”

Entering the seventh season of his career, Morris has remained a steady part of the league. During his time in Detroit, he started nearly every game for the Pistons and found a comfort zone that he believes will carry over in Boston.

“Just continue to be consistent, continue to build on my last past couple of years,” Morris said of his personal goals. “I really felt like I carved my spot in the NBA the last two years—averaging 14 a year and helping my team get to the playoffs one of those years, so I really think I’ve carved a niche in this league.”

The success has come thanks to his versatility and the NBA’s current direction pointing towards that type of game. All of a sudden, not having a defined position makes a player more valuable, something Morris is thankful for as he continues to bring a little bit of everything to the table.

“For guys like me, it’s great,” Morris said. “Coming into the league, I had this ‘tweener’ thing on my back and now it’s like [freaking] great to be a ‘tweener’ at this time. I’m actually happy that it’s switching to my position and guys that can do multiple things are being utilized more in this league.”

Putting the ball in the basket has come fairly easy for Morris, who averaged 14.1 points per game on 42.6 percent from the field over 159 games with Detroit. He’s able to stretch the floor and provide solid spacing offensively, and he envisions doing more than that for this Celtics group.

“And leadership,” Morris said. “I’m not too much of a vocal guy, but I’m a passionate guy on the court. I think that’ll rub off on guys. I love scoring. I love shooting the ball. But that’s not the only thing I do.

“I’ve been a tough defender around this league for the last past years and I’m really looking forward to hanging my hat on that again and just doing whatever it takes for my team to get to that next level.”

Stevens is aware of the impact Morris can bring in the locker room and on the floor. When he returns from a sore knee to make his debut for Boston, that’ll show through his play.

“He’s a guy that can stretch the floor at the four,” Stevens said. “He’s a guy that can guard two through four. He’s tough. He’s smart. He works the right way. We’ll be better with Marcus Morris for sure. The versatility is a very important part of what we want to be.

“Whether he is starting in a couple of weeks or whether he’s coming off the bench, at the end of the day he’s gonna be a critical, critical part of our team.”

While he’s waited to come back, Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum have stepped up in his absence. With Hayward likely sidelined for the rest of the season, that success will have to be sustained. Morris is a big believer in this promising duo and sees how grounded they are to make that happen.

“They’re mature guys for their age,” Morris said. “Jaylen, I think he’s 20. He’s definitely a lot more mature than I thought. Jayson, too. He’s way more mature than your average 19-year-old.

“At the end of the day, it’s just basketball. I think those guys, they’re ready for the challenge. They love the game. They always in the gym, so I think it’ll be easy for ‘em.”

Part of Morris’ role is guiding those two and the other younger pieces that Boston has as they try and establish themselves as professionals. He’s kind of a coach per se, which is somewhat fitting considering what he did this summer.

Most basketball fans are aware of “The Basketball Tournament” that takes nationwide. For those that aren’t, it’s a single-elimination competition between 64 teams in which the champion receives a $2 million prize. Morris was the head coach of Team FOE—standing for Family Over Everything.

Along with his fellow Kansas alums, including his brother Markieff and Thomas Robinson, Morris coached his team to the final game. Team FOE was in front most of the game but ultimately fell to Boeheim’s Army, a squad filled with former Syracuse Orangemen.

“I was on my way man,” Morris said of coming close. “I actually liked it. I’m a smart guy. Me and basketball stuff, I can put it together real well. I was kinda upset we lost in the fashion that we lost, but we’ll be back next year.

“I’m a smart player,” he said regarding a potential future on the sidelines. “I know the game really well. Coaching comes easy for some guys and I’m just one of those guys.”

You could hear “Coach Morris” down the line, but for now and for years to come, Marcus is focused on his first year with Boston. It’s a team that surely has the talent to be the top team in the East it’s pegged to be. Stevens is a basketball savant with great leadership.

Even without an All-Star like Hayward and a 0-2 start, the Celtics should still be a force to be reckoned with. There’s an even greater demand for them to achieve their potential, especially knowing eyes will be on them, but Morris welcomes the challenge.

“Man, it’s pressure on every team,” Morris said. “It ain’t like it’s just all on the Boston Celtics. It’s pressure on every team. What’s a game without pressure anyway?

“Pressure makes it the best thing. That’s what we need to do anyway. I enjoy the pressure. Me personally.”

Shouldering the load won’t be easy, but if it comes down to it, Morris will be swimming instead of sinking. When all is said and done, he shares the same aspirations as most players do—raising the Larry O’Brien trophy in the summer.

“I want to the win the championship,” Morris said. “You put this type of team together to get to those positions. I’m looking to be playing in June and trying to get to a championship.”

Continue Reading
Advertisement
Advertisement

Trending Now