INDEPENDENCE — Even before Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue opened training camp Monday night with a “wins and lessons” theme, J.R. Smith might have been readying his rap sheet.
The 33-year-old guard wasn’t just mulling his run-ins with the law, although Smith has had more than his share. A misdemeanor charge of criminal mischief for throwing an onlooker’s cellphone outside a New York nightclub this summer is still pending. Judging by the continuing razzing on social media, some fans may not have forgiven him for forgetting the score was tied at the end of Game 1 of the NBA Finals, an eventual overtime loss.
“Let me ask you this, if we would’ve had won Game 1 do we win the Finals?” Smith said, insisting he got over his gaffe even before the Golden State Warriors’ sweep. To a response of “Probably not,” Smith said, “So ... there you go.”
The Cavs’ training camp roster includes eight newcomers all under age 25 and there will be much to teach. As Smith begins his 15th year in the NBA, his lesson plans are ready.
“S***, if I ain’t a lesson teacher I don’t know who is,” Smith said Wednesday after practice at the Cleveland Clinic Courts. “Obviously I’ve made tons of mistakes throughout my life on and off the court. If you can’t learn from my mistakes and listen to what I have to say, then more power to you and God bless you.”
Even Smith’s body can serve as an example to the younger Cavs. After weighing between 245 and 247 pounds for the past four Finals, Smith said he’s down to 223, close to his 220 pounds as a 19-year-old first-round pick of the New Orleans Hornets in 2004.
“I’ve been trying to lose weight since I was five years into the league,” he said. “I’ve been working out, doing the same thing, staying in the house more with the kids instead of rippin’ and runnin’ — maybe that helped out.”
Smith is the third-oldest Cavalier behind Kyle Korver (37) and Channing Frye (35). Lue said he’s talked with Smith about being more involved as a teacher, and Smith is excited about it.
“He’s seen a lot and he’s learned a lot and he’s matured a lot,” Lue said. “I’ve known him since he first came into the league. Just seeing who he is with a beautiful family and wife, how he’s matured and grown, his parents are great. He understands. I think he gets it now. When you play for so long and now it’s starting to come to an end, you can appreciate what you’ve learned and try to pass it on to the younger guys.”
Smith and his wife, Jewel Harris, have four daughters — Payton, Demi, Dakota and Denver, born in June. According to The Undefeated, Smith and his family spent the offseason in Smith’s hometown of Millstone Township, N.J., with Smith driving 60 miles to New York to work out harder than he ever had.
With close friend LeBron James departing for the Los Angeles Lakers, Smith said there is a different atmosphere this season, with the younger players inspiring him to keep going.
“Obviously we had somebody who everybody looked up to and idolized,” he said in reference to James. “At the same time, I get a lot of these guys in here that were in fourth or fifth grade when I came into the league. ‘I remember you doing this, that and the third.’ As weird as it sounds, I still am appreciative of the younger group and it makes me want to work that much harder so they can see how I’ve been able to stick.
“Honestly when I looked around the locker room and [saw] I was one of the oldest guys — I think I’m the third oldest and second in years behind Kyle — it’s a whirlwind. I definitely don’t take it for granted because some of the guys that came into the league when I came in were one and done or two years and done. This is my 15th training camp and I plan on going longer.”
Marla Ridenour can be reached at email@example.com. Read the Cavs blog at www.ohio.com/cavs. Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/MRidenourABJ.