Cavaliers shooting guard JR Smith has not been himself lately. He is currently experiencing one of the worst slumps he’s had since arriving in Cleveland. In his last four games, he shooting just 4/32 in an uncharacteristic struggle from beyond the arc. We are not accustomed to seeing Smith’s radar so off target, but a reason for the ongoing slump surfaced on Thursday night after the Cavs lost to the Clippers at home.
Smith revealed he is battling a sore left knee, and against the Clippers, Smith attempted just three shots, going 1/3 on the night. The only shot he made was the first basket the Cavs made early in first period on a deep wing trey, but after that, Smith ran into foul trouble and didn’t look comfortable on the floor. Throw in the relentless task of checking an always moving J.J. Redick who went 23 on the night and 21 in the first half alone, the stress on his knee was unforgiving.
After the game, Smith sat in the locker room with his left knee heavily wrapped in ice. Mind you, Smith also limped over to reporters on Wednesday to speak to them after practice which also raised concerns. Despite his obvious discomfort and limiting knee, Smith said no interest in getting it looked at as told Joe Vardon of Cleveland.com
“There’s nothing I can do about it right now because I don’t want to get an MRI,” Smith said.
Smith later refused to offer it as an excuse for his recent struggles, but did say it bothered him on the court at times. Despite a back-to-back against the Bulls on Friday, the Cavs did not placed Smith on their injury list entering the game and he is good to go for Monday’s matchup against the Raptors. In fact, all players are available, including Mike Dunleavy who had to pass the NBA’s concussion protocol before being cleared for a return.
Perhaps the dragged out contract negotiation between Smith and the Cavs which saw him to miss the entire pre-season is now revealing itself. His on court conditioning may have been affected and interrupted because of this, which could have possibly led to this injury, as well as his ankle injury that caused him to miss three games already this campaign.
As of right now, his numbers are among the worst in his career. He is averaging just 8.1 points per game which is the second lowest since entering the league, he’s shooting just 30% overall, a career worst, and shooting just 32.7% from downtown, the second lowest of his career. It’s obvious Smith is being restricted by his troublesome knee, and his movement has been hindered. He relies on his speed and quickness, as well as his agility to come off screens and change direction instantly to make an impact. This is being heavily affected right now, and he cannot play his normal game comfortably, which in turn is hurting his contribution to the team.
After making his first three pointer off a James feed, coach Lue stated he could have done a better job of getting Smith shots, but didn’t think he necessarily struggled on the night.
” I could have did a better job of running some things for him to try to get him involved, especially when they’re switching the way they switched.
“Tonight he didn’t struggle,” Lue said. “He made his first shot and then didn’t really get a chance to get him in a rhythm.”
Lue also eluded to making a lineup change after the Cavs underwent their second straight loss. The logical switch would be swapping Iman Shumpert for Smith who has been playing brilliantly to start the season.
Only time will tell what Lue decides, but it’s more than a rough patch of form that’s effecting JR Smith right now.