(Editor’s note: This was written prior to the news that forward Kevin Love will miss six weeks with a knee injury. Feel free to discuss both in the comments. Cheers.)
Coming into the season, the Cleveland Cavaliers’ main focus was to stay healthy. They knew that they had the talent to finish as one of the East’s best teams going into the postseason, so their main goal throughout the season was to be 100 percent by the time the playoffs rolled around in April. While dealing with minor injuries that consisted of some players missing a game here and there, one of the team’s most significant injuries so far happened to guard J.R. Smith.
After suffering a thumb injury on December 20, the sharpshooter was expected to miss three months following surgery to repair a complex fracture in his right thumb on his shooting hand. At the time, he was expected to miss three months, which would have put his return to the hardwood in either late March or early April. Monday morning, ESPN’s Dave McMenamin and Chris Haynes reported that Smith’s return could be sooner than expected and he could return to the court in mid-March.
But, later Monday, Smith himself tweeted that the report and rumor is just that, and he still has “a ways to go” until he returns to the court.
Please don't believe the hype. Still a ways to go. "Sources" means they have nothing else to wright. Trusting my process!
— JR Smith (@TheRealJRSmith) February 13, 2017
Whether ESPN’s report on Smith’s return happening sooner rather than later is correct or not, it seems as though the veteran will be 100 percent by the time the postseason rolls around, which is most important.
Now, if you were Smith or head coach Tyronn Lue, would you rush back your starting two-guard or allow him to take his time getting back as long as he’s back by just before the playoffs start so he can get his rhythm and chemistry back with his teammates? The latter seems to be the right decision, but it will be up to Smith and the Cavs trainers to determine when Swish is allowed to start playing again.
Then again, the sooner No. 5 returns, the more time he will have to get acclimated with his teammates again, including Kyle Korver, who Smith has never played alongside. While an argument can be made for both sides, the fact that he will be healthy by the end of the regular season is vital.
When Smith returns, the sharpshooter may not be able to ease the ball-handling burden off of Kyrie Irving and LeBron James, but he will no doubt contribute in the scoring column. Along with being a scorer, the 31-year-old could guard some of the opponents’ best wing scorers and allow James to not use as much energy on the defensive side of the ball. Smith’s shooting ability and ability to be a two-way player will give the Cavs backcourt another added dimension and added depth as well.