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Cleveland Cavaliers head coach Tyronn Lue elected to switch up the starting lineup for Tuesday’s game against the Phoenix Suns, leaving JR Smith to come off the bench.
“Honestly, I don’t know,” Smith said when asked what his new role will be, per Dave McMenamin of ESPN.com.
Kyle Korver started in his place, but McMenamin noted Rodney Hood will assume the starting position when he returns from his back injury.
“But I think it’s good for the first unit, though,” Smith clarified. “Because we actually get to have someone out there we’re going to run stuff for and who is a threat, as opposed to having somebody who is not an option.”
Smith was also moved out of the starting lineup earlier this season to make room for Dwyane Wade, who has since been traded to the Miami Heat.
According to McMenamin, Lue said he had a talk with Smith about moving him out of the starting lineup, but Smith didn’t seem to think it was much of a discussion.
“We didn’t talk,” Smith said. “He sent me a text [Monday], and I told him, ‘No problem.’ I didn’t know that it was a ‘talk.'”
He continued, saying: “That’s all right, though. I’m not upset about it. I just wish there would have been more dialogue, I guess.”
The Cavaliers lost to the Los Angeles Clippers on Friday and the Los Angeles Lakers on Sunday, and Smith finished with a mere three points on 1-of-7 shooting against the Purple and Gold. As a result of the two-game losing streak, the three-time defending Eastern Conference champions dropped to the No. 4 seed, so the matchup with the lowly Suns came at an ideal time.
Entering play Tuesday, Smith was averaging 8.3 points and 2.9 rebounds per game behind a 39 percent shooting clip from the field. However, he was still hitting a solid 36.2 percent of his three-pointers and can theoretically provide a spark with his outside shooting off the bench moving forward.
Smith’s most important basketball this season is still ahead of him, and he is a proven playoff competitor during his tenure with the Cavaliers.
He shot 43 percent from deep in the 2016 postseason as Cleveland won the championship and then drilled 50 percent of his threes in last year’s postseason as his team reached the NBA Finals for the third straight year.
If he finds that stroke in this season’s playoffs, he will serve as a critical factor whether he is starting or coming off the bench.