A missed shootaround Thursday morning looked like a possible setback in J.R. Smith’s plans to return to the Cleveland Cavaliers’ rotation against Detroit. But his bout of minor sickness was a momentary pause, nothing more, when the Cavs said that the veteran shooting guard in fact would play against the Pistons at the Palace of Auburn Hills.
Smith, sidelined since Dec. 20 after suffering a fractured right thumb, was cleared to practice Wednesday and was listed as questionable to face Detroit. In his 13th NBA season and third with Cleveland, he averaged just 8.6 points on 33.7 percent shooting in 21 games before his injury.
Now Smith will work his way back off the bench. And, according to LeBron James, needs to be careful about trying to do too much too soon. Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com was on hand for the Cavs’ shootaround:
"You can't fast track it when you've been out so long,” James said. “You can't get frustrated with the process. That's what it's all about.
"As great as J.R. has been for us, he can't automatically think that he's going to be exactly where he was when he went out. It will take some time and as a team we have to understand that as well. So that's the main thing."
Smith … pointed out all the new faces as well.
While he's played with the core group, he shared the practice floor with Deron Williams and Derrick Williams for the first time Wednesday. He hasn't played with Kyle Korver, who was acquired in early January. Those three new faces haven't played with Smith either, so it will take time to get everybody on the same page and it will be a tough balancing act for head coach Tyronn Lue to find minutes for everyone.
"That's going to be challenging for sure because you can only play five guys at a time," James said recently. "We have a lot of depth, a lot of talent. There's going to be games where a very talented guy doesn't get the opportunity that he would like, being a competitor. But I think we all know what we here for. We here for one reason and that's to defend our title. That's the main thing.
"You understand when everyone signed up to be here, everyone who decided to come here knows what the situation is about."