Former Cleveland Cavaliers player JR Smith believes he was blackballed for his 2018 NBA Finals gaffe.
The Cleveland Cavaliers had a wild time from 2014 to 2018, reaching the NBA Finals four times and winning it once. Backed by the powerhouse trio of LeBron James, Kevin Love, and Kyrie Irving, the Cavs team was a force to reckon with. They had some unique pieces to help them along the way and one of them was former NBA shooting guard JR Smith.
Smith was known for his wild temperament and his sharp-shooting skills, something that made him a household name during his time in Denver but when he went to New York, the cracks in his game were exposed. He wasn’t much more than a shooter and played very porous defense during his time with the Knicks, and eventually, he ended up in Cleveland where he won an NBA title.
Yet, the thing he’s most remembered for is his gaffe in Game 1 of the 2018 NBA Finals. With time ticking down on the clock, the Cavs having possession of the ball, and the score tied, Smith inexplicably dribbled out the clock, much to everyone’s dismay. The Cavs lost that game and many people believe that had it not been for Smith’s mental lapse that the Cavaliers would’ve won that game and made it a more competitive series.
It has become the most defining moment of his NBA career. Due to that gaffe, Smith feels that he was driving out of the NBA due to the moment. When asked by Pierce Simpson of Complex if he was blackballed, smith replied;
"Yeah, 100 percent‘ Anybody can sit here and tell you that that’s a fact.’”"
Except, that’s not the truth of the situation.
JR Smith was washed in 2018 and he was on his way out of the NBA anyway
Smith was a prominent reason why the Cavs had no real shot in that 2018 series. In that season alone, he was 80 points below his True Shooting Percentage for his career (.536 career vs. .444 in 2018). Not only was his TS% way down, but he went from shooting 37% from three in 2017 to 30% from three in 2018.
When he arrived in Cleveland in 2015, he had a 0.5 box plus-minus, and by 2018, his BPM had fallen to a -3.2. He posted a -3.7 offensive BPM that year alone. Basically, when he was on the court, the team was less likely to score points or stop defenses from scoring points. Opposing teams would improve by nearly four points for every one point that Smith contributed.
He was such a hassle on the court that the team could not win with him and his lack of production was showing by this point.
Coupled that with his attitude issues on and off the court, people were just fed up with him. With his attitude issues, his desire to assault coaches, and his declining play, he just wasn’t worth the headache anymore.
But sure, he was blackballed because he made a mistake. Not because he’s a soup-throwing, three-point-chucking, no-defending, terrible player with huge attitude issues.