The Cleveland Cavaliers suspended J.R. Smith for Thursday’s home game against the Philadelphia 76ers, making the announcement just two hours before the game was set to tip off. The only explanation offered by the team in a terse statement was that the 14th-year swingman engaged in “detrimental conduct.”
“He was great this morning,” Cavs Coach Tyronn Lue said before the game. “Something happened after shoot-around, so that’s all the details I’m going to give to you.”
But ESPN’s Brian Windhorst and Dave McMenamin shed light on the details in a report published Friday morning, and Smith’s conduct was indeed detrimental: According to their sources, he threw a bowl of soup at assistant coach Damon Jones.
Lue said Thursday that Smith was expected to return to practice on Friday and be in Cleveland’s lineup Saturday for a home game against the Denver Nuggets.
Rodney Hood, acquired in a trade last month from the Utah Jazz, started Thursday in Smith’s place and had 11 points and five assists in Cleveland’s 108-97 loss. Smith has started 56 of Cleveland’s 59 games this season, and has been a regular for the Cavs since coming over in 2015 via a midseason trade from the New York Knicks.
In January, Smith said he would accept a bench role as the Cavs mulled changes while going through a difficult stretch. That appeared to represent a different mind-set from the start of the season, when he was reportedly unhappy that Dwyane Wade, acquired in the offseason before getting traded last month to the Miami Heat, was initially given the starting job at shooting guard.
This season has seen the 32-year-old Smith post his lowest scoring average, 8.3 points, since his second season in the NBA, and the lowest per-36-minutes scoring figure of his career. Viewed as a mercurial personality in previous NBA stops, Smith earned the off-court friendship and on-court trust of Cavs star LeBron James while helping the team win the 2016 NBA title, but over the past two seasons, he has posted the two lowest player efficiency ratings (8.1 and 8.3, per Basketball Reference) of his career.
Naturally, there were jokes after the soup news broke Friday, some of them quite good:
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