Q&A: J.R. Smith

Posted by C.L. Anthony on Tuesday, January 27, 2015 with No comments
Courtesy of David Aldridge

Me: I always wonder how guys pick up new verbiage when they are traded. I know a screen-roll is a screen-roll, but they call it something different here than they did in New York. 
J.R. Smith: I think that's the biggest -- not the biggest, but the toughest part, is picking up the terminology. Playing against certain teams, you hear the call, and you know the plays. But being with a new coach...you've got different calls for different things. Fortunately, I've got some great vets who help me out, on the court as well as off the court. 
Me: What do you do with your whip and all your other rides? What are you riding now? 
JRS: Fortunately, Jersey isn't too far from here; it's a seven-hour drive. So one of my friends, and my brother, drove my truck up. Everything else gets kind of shipped. I had to put my clothes in there and ship them out, too. 
Me: Is it hard to get comfortable when you're living out of a suitcase, or in an apartment?
JRS: Yeah, it's definitely harder for me right now. I'm in the hotel, still. I found a spot yesterday, and just the whole process of going out, meeting people, the realtors, people from the organization that help you look for places, stuff like that. Furniture and all that. It gets tedious after a while, but at the same time it's part of the business. That's why I've got my mom here, so she can deal with all that. 
Me: Is she gonna be with you the rest of the season? 
JRS: Nah, she's not gonna stay the rest of the season. She's gonna be in and out. 
Me: I saw Carmelo a couple of weeks ago. I had forgotten y'all played together in Denver as well as New York. So what is it like when you've been with a guy for so many years, and you get close, and then it's just over. 
JRS: That was the toughest part about the trade. We played together nine years. The bond, the camaraderie, the brotherhood that we gained, it's, I wouldn't say over, it's just discontinued. When you're playing with a person like 'Melo, you depend on him a lot, from on the court and off the court. I can always go to him for advice, just everyday life things, as well as stuff on the court. So I think that's the toughest part. But fortunately, coming to a team like this, I've also got him in a different person, between him and LeBron. It's pretty much the same concepts and stuff like that; it's just coming from a different voice.
Me: How well did you know LeBron before coming here? 
JRS: We go back to high school. Just the AAU camps and tournaments and stuff like that, seeing each other, just talking to each other. Going into my rookie year, I came out here and stayed with him for like a week or so, did his foundation stuff. So I've known him for a while. 
Me: Are there similarities both on the court and in terms of leadership between he and Carmelo? 
JRS: Yeah. I think he's more of a vocal leader than 'Melo is. 'Melo's more of a I'm gonna show what to do, and if you follow suit, that's what it is. 'Bron is more of an 'alright, this is what's gonna happen; you're gonna do this, this, this and this,' or you're gonna receive this. He's more of a vocal person than 'Melo is. 'Melo is more behind the scenes, still gets his work in and everything in, you just don't see as much. 'Bron is more, you see it. I don't think it's a right or wrong way; (but) it's definitely a different in the culture between the two. 
Me: I have to ask you what those two months of losing in New York was like for you and the team, and how you tried to get through it.
JRS: It was extremely difficult. From a competitive standpoint, and wanting to win, and doing it at any cost, then being hurt for a while so you couldn't help the team but from afar, it was probably one of the most difficult things in my life. My rookie year, we won 18 games in New Orleans. To be in that same boat 10 years later, and to be a veteran as opposed to being a younger guy, when you don't really understand and you're still in your first year, trying to get your feet wet, for somebody who's won 50-plus games for six, seven years in a row, and then come to a situation like that, it's totally mind blowing. It can break you down. I think the one great thing about it was we had a great core of guys. No matter what was going on -- winning, losing -- we all kept each other up. 'Cause we were in it together. 
Me: Was it hard to go out, have dinner, see people? 
JRS: Yeah, just out and about, going shopping, going out to eat, especially in New York. You know fans are so passionate. They won't sugarcoat it. They'll tell you how they feel, 'cause they might not see you again. They let you know, listen, y'all gotta pick it up, or y'all are terrible, what are you doing, whatever. Which is also good, 'cause you see how passionate they are about their teams. They want you to do well. 
Me: But when you knew Cleveland wanted you, what did that say to you?
JRS: When I first heard about the trade and the possibilities, it was kind of mixed feelings. It was like, this could be a blessing in disguise. But I don't want to leave 'Melo by himself. Because just being in this situation, it's tough. Being in this situation alone is worse. So that bothered me a lot. And then I kind of got selfish with it. This is the best situation for me as a person. And make the best out of any situation. And I think I am right now. All the players seem to be responding to me very well, and the coaches love me. So I have no complaints. 
Me: But you ain't sad to leave that triangle, though. 
JRS: I am, in the sense that I wanted to make it work. I wanted to be one of the players that understood it, that got it. The two greatest players in the world at my position played in it, and thrived in it, got all the accolades and championships and whatever else came with it. I wanted to be a part of that significant group. Not that I think I'm like those two guys in any way, but to be a part of the building process that that's the base of, and go from there. But they made the right decision. You have to take the car apart in order for it to be what you want it to be. 
Me: What has Coach Blatt and the staff said about their expectations of you here? 
JRS: They just expect me to be me. Don't second-guess anything. If you feel like you're open, shoot the ball. If you feel like you need to pass, make the pass. Don't overthink anything. Play your game. The biggest advice I got when I first got here, the first game I played, I was kind of tentative, because I don't know how the guys will respond to me if I shoot this shot, or what's going to go on. I talked to 'Bron and he was like, 'we got you because of who you are. Play your game. You don't have to fit in. You already fit. So don't try and fit in.' And after that, it was pretty much just go play and be me. 
Me: What do you have to work on to fit here?
JRS: Being more consistent. 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 involves 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. So 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, alright, 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. 
Me: Did you find that exploring that life, because you could, wasn't all it was cracked up to be? I can spend whatever I want, and at the end of the day, it really doesn't mean anything? 
JRS: 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. So when you start missing those shots you're supposed to make, especially wide-open shots, it was like, alright, what's going on, what's going on? Instead of looking at what it is, you're reverting to that even more, instead of going back to the basics. So I think that's the greatest part about being here. 
Me: I know you've just been here a short time, but how important do you think that west coast trip was, with Love playing hurt and LeBron looking more like himself? 
JRS: I mean, it's a relief for me. Since the game before beating the Lakers, that was the first time Shump and I won in a month. We went from December 11, and it blossomed. For us, it was like, oh, my goodness, we won. We're going to start winning. Since we've been here, we lost three or four games in a row. But we already knew that once we got our whole team together, it's going to be trouble. After that first game, and then beating a great team like the Clippers, it set it in stone in our heads that we're a part of something great, we're a part of something that can really be something. We've got to give it everything we've got, no matter what. 
Me: I wonder if you and Shump view it as, we've got another shot here. We could go from worst to first in one season. 
JRS: Yeah. I mean, I definitely look at it like that. I think it was harder for Shump because it was his first trade. New York was his first team. He had so many, at the point in time when we got traded, that was all he knew as a player his first three, four years. It's tough because, other than that one year when we got the second seed, he's never won consistently at this level. So it's tougher for him than it was for me...right now, I think we're definitely -- I know he is, because he's pressing to come back from the injury -- but we're locking in as a unit more than anything. We came into the situation like, alright, man, it's just me and you until we see what the other guys are like. It's just us. And then meeting everybody, it was like, okay, it's all of us.