J.R. Smith A Changed Man In Cleveland From His Time In New York?


When J.R. Smith was a member of the New York Knicks, it was no secret that he enjoyed the night life. The city that never sleeps provided Smith with endless opportunities after games, as there are always numerous nightclubs and parties open for someone with the name power of Smith. Could that be why Smith is experiencing such success early on with the Cleveland Cavaliers?

Smith was quoted in a conversation with NBA.com David Aldridge that Cleveland is “the best situation” for him, as he could find more consistency in his game because Cleveland doesn’t have as much of a night life as New York City does.

"“Consistency has been something that … I wouldn’t say lacked, but it’s just been stints where I get hot, and then you go cold for two, three games, whatever the case may be. Just staying consistent, and that involved staying in the gym. So for me, I got my brother here with me, so we’re in the gym every night, playing one-on-one, or whatever the case may be, as well as me getting my rest. I think this is the best situation for me, ‘cause there’s nothing but basketball. There’s nothing you expect but basketball. There’s nothing, there’s no going out, there’s no late nights. There’s video games, basketball and basketball. – J.R. Smith"

It would be hard to argue against what Smith has been saying, as he has been everything the Cavaliers had hoped when they acquired him and Iman Shumpert from the Knicks in the three-team trade that also included the Oklahoma City Thunder. Smith has provided a scoring punch for the Smith, starting nine of 10 games and averaging 15.2 points per game with 3.4 rebounds, 2.0 assists and 1.5 steals. He already has three games of six or more three pointers made, which opens up the middle of the court for LeBron James to do his work.

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Another thing to take from the above quote is the fact that his brother, Chris Smith, is there with him. That is something that the Knicks had also tried, going as far as giving him a coveted roster spot just to try keeping J.R. in line. It was a move that backfired, as J.R. struggled to come back from injuries, getting more headlines for his antics and poor decisions on the court than his play. In a city like New York, it seemed having his brother along for the ride gave J.R. another reason to go out, not get in the gym to work.

Smith seems to have realized this now, as he went into some detail about how off the court things derailed his play with the Knicks.

"“Especially from the standpoint of making me better. I always made myself better by staying in the gym.When you replace that with stuff off the court, then you’re taking away from what made you who you are, or what got you to a certain point. It was kind of pulling me down in a sense, of not getting enough rest, not doing things you’re supposed to be doing, things you’re used to doing.” – J.R. Smith"

This is extremely surprising to hear from Smith, as maturity was one thing that the Knicks and fans alike always harped on an area Smith needed to improve to succeed. It would seem that he finally realized that, as playing for a team with championship aspirations has caused Smith to take a step back and take a look at his approach to the game. He is only two seasons removed from being named Sixth Man of the Year, so the talent is obviously there; it just was not always Smith’s number one concern when playing with the Knicks.

Playing in Cleveland with a better supporting cast should increase Smith’s production, but his comfortability with his surroundings should also help. Smith likened his experience in Cleveland thus far to life when he was younger, growing up in New Jersey.

"“It’s a great thing, ‘cause I go back to where I came from. When I grew up, I never, I wasn’t allowed to go out. I missed my prom because I went to an AAU tournament, and all that stuff. For me, it was basketball, basketball, basketball. And then when I got in the situation where I was at an early age, it was more, all right, let me see what this life is about, as opposed to just keep going. So now, I get the chance to get back to my roots.” – J.R. Smith"

This could be the best thing to happen to Smith in his career. Just looking at the quotes he gave, his family and memories of growing up are very close and important to him. He touches on that he lost sense of that a bit when he first went out on his own, getting caught up in the lifestyle of a basketball player.

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Right now Smith is in a bit of a honeymoon phase, as things are turning around with the Cavaliers, who have won sixth straight games, one more than he won with the Knicks in 24 games.

Speaking of the Knicks, Smith is understanding of him being traded, no matter how much he loved being in New York. Smith says that Phil Jackson made the right decision moving him, referencing it to a car that Jackson wants to put specific pieces in to make it his own. For Smith, he could be the piece to turn the Cavaliers into a luxury sports car after missing expectations and looking more like a used car for most of the season.

Next: 6 Things To Look Forward To For New York Knicks' Second Half Of Season