J.R. Smith has fit in much better with the Cavaliers than many predicted he would when the guard was acquired earlier this season from the Knicks, Dave McMenamin of ESPN.com writes. “For J.R., I think he’s been misunderstood,” LeBron James said. “He had a great column last week about the perception of him before he got here. I think you should read it, it’s pretty great. And he said at the end, it doesn’t matter if he’s playing in New York, or Cleveland or Denver or Timbuktu, all he cares about is winning. For a guy that’s been highly scrutinized throughout his career, saying he’s not a team guy and takes bad shots and he follows around everyone else, I think it’s unfair to him. He comes out every single day and works his tail off to try to get better, to help our team win. He defends at a high level and he’s a great teammate and he’s a great guy.” Smith has a player option worth $6,777,589 that he can opt out of this summer if he wishes to become an unrestricted free agent.
Here’s more from the Central Division:
- Bucks coach Jason Kidd sees a lot of himself in Michael Carter-Williams, and he believes that the change of scenery from the losing culture the Sixers have cultivated will be good for the young guard, Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN.com writes. Kidd also believes that having a healthy offseason can help Carter-Williams improve his outside shooting, which is a glaring weakness in the young point guard’s game, Youngmisuk adds.
- Acquiring Carter-Williams also helped the Bucks‘ salary cap situation, Youngmisuk notes. By swapping Brandon Knight, who is set to become a restricted free agent this offseason, for Carter-Williams, who has two years remaining on his rookie contract, the team can now focus solely on re-signing Khris Middleton, who will also be a restricted free agent this summer, the ESPN scribe adds.
- Kevin Love has seemingly found his niche with the Cavaliers now that the playoffs have begun, and the veteran forward appears to be more at peace with being in Cleveland, Jason Lloyd of The Akron Beacon Journal writes. “People have focused my whole career on what I couldn’t do rather than what I could do,” Love said. “I know my teammates and coaching staff has my back. I know the organization has my back. I’m sending the love right back to them.”