During his two-and-a-half year career with the Cleveland Cavaliers, JR Smith was a staple of the starting lineup. Earning starts in 157-of-164 regular-season contests, he logged 41-of-57 starting nods in the playoffs, including 39-straight over the last two years.
But, when the Cavs signed Dwyane Wade a few weeks ago, Smith became the obvious choice to lose his starting role. Last season, Smith averaged 8.6 points on 34.6 percent shooting over 29.0 minutes in 41 regular-season games before 8.1 points on 50.5 percent shooting over 27.1 minutes in the playoffs.
Last year, he missed three months of the regular season recovering from thumb surgery.
While he certainly gained strength in the playoffs, particularly from beyond the arc, head coach Tyronn Lue announced that both Smith and Tristan Thompson would be coming off the bench this season, as Wade and Jae Crowder will move into the starting five.
As a result, Smith wasn’t happy, despite losing his job to a 12-time All-Star and three-time champion.
"We talked about it," he told Joe Varton of Cleveland.com. "It wasn't the most positive conversation, but we talked about it and we'll get through it together."
"Was working hard all summer and then coming in and not even really having a chance to earn my spot, but it's all right," he said. "It is what it is."
Although it clearly hurts him, Smith actually has a solid outlook on his new role.
"I actually like playing on the second unit better, I'm more of a playmaker and distributor and I handle the ball a little bit more instead of just running to the corner,” he explained. Since he was often the fourth option on offense behind LeBron, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love, his role was limited to being a spot-up shooter in previous seasons.
Now on the second unit, he might find the ball in his hands a bit more.
LeBron weighed in on his buddy’s new role and made it appear as though everything will continue to run smoothly.
"Obviously, he's a competitor, he wants to start," James said. "Everyone would love to start but J.R. is in a position where he feels he wants to do whatever is best for the team. So if it's playmaking if he's out there with the second unit -- you saw what he did tonight. If it's giving up his starting job to D Wade.”
"It's not about who starts or who comes off the bench, it's about who all can make sacrifices to win a championship. And that's what we're all here for,” LeBron reminded everyone.
Although Smith will be coming off the bench, he will likely see substantial minutes on a loaded roster.