INDEPENDENCE, Ohio — Cavs coach Tyronn Lue called J.R. Smith’s wandering off the court to hug the Bucks’ Jason Terry an “embarrassing moment” and said Smith’s ski-masked explanation of ignorance after the game “wasn’t right.”
“Me and J.R. talked about it,” Lue said after practice Wednesday, which followed what was Cleveland’s worst loss of the season, a 118-101 downer in Milwaukee. “We’re just going to move forward. We had a discussion about it, he felt embarrassed about it, it was an embarrassing play. We talked about it. We’re moving on.”
Lue said after the game Tuesday night that he actually hadn’t seen the play that had already lit the Internet on fire. With 2:57 remaining in the second quarter and play set to resume following a timeout, Smith walked from the Cavs’ bench, to where they were setting up to play defense, and kept going.
He found Terry and hugged it out with him. Meanwhile, the ball was in play and former Cav Matthew Dellavedova rifled the ball right to Smith’s man — Tony Snell — who was wide open for a dunk.
Even more bizarre, after the game Smith said “I didn’t even know I was in the game. My bad.”
See J.R.’s original explanation
On Wednesday, Lue said “I talked to him about that also. There’s no need for that. Just address the media in the right way, move on.”
Smith, who met with the team’s beat reporters after receiving treatment Wednesday, explained: “I said it more in a joking manner because you can see what happened, obviously I wasn’t paying attention.
“For me to just sit there and tell you I wasn’t paying attention makes it plain and boring somewhat, especially when you’re asking a question you already know the answer to,” said Smith, who is also mired in a 3-for-29 shooting slump over the last three games. “But at the same time, I still have to give that boring answer, for whatever reason.”
Lue also apologized for cursing during his postgame remarks to the media after the game, which were aired on Fox Sports Ohio on a delay. His comment may have been edited for the remarks were shown.
Part of the reason (but not all of it, the man did walk off the court during play to hug an opponent for goodness sakes) Smith’s blunder created such a buzz was that fans were considering the source. Smith, 31, has an enigmatic past in which he racked more than $1 million in league fines, including in 2014 for tying together opponents’ shoelaces while waiting for free throws. He also has a history of off-court trouble and run-ins with the law.
This is the player, after all, who went shirtless for a week after the Cavs won the Finals. He was then savvy enough to turn the likeness of his tattooed, naked upper half into a T-shirt. There’s never been a shot Smith didn’t like. All of it is part of J.R. Being J.R.
“This is the first I can say mental error that I’ve had since I was here,” Smith said. “I mean, I think that’s just one of the reasons why it’s so big because it hasn’t been seen yet here.”
That’s not entirely true. Smith was suspended for two games in the 2015 playoffs for punching Jae Crowder. He rolled into games during the 2015 Finals on a PhunkeeDuck scooter. Smith is being sued for $2.5 million for allegedly choking a New York teen last year, though Smith and his attorney have denied the allegation and he was not charged criminally.
The Cavs signed him to a four-year, $57 million contract prior to the start of the regular season, largely because of his performance the past two years as a 3-point sharpshooter and as someone Lue considers the team’s best defender.
Also, it must be noted, the Cavs had recognized that, as Smith suggested, his behavior here has been far better than it was earlier in his career.