J.R. Smith’s poor disciplinary record reared its head again on Thursday when the guard was suspended by the Cleveland Cavaliers ahead of their game against the Philadelphia 76ers.
In a short statement that came just two hours before tip-off, the Cavs announced Smith had engaged in what they described as “detrimental conduct” and had been subsequently suspended.
“He was great this morning,” Cavs Coach Tyronn Lue said before the game, as reported by the Washington Post. “Something happened after shoot-around, so that’s all the details I’m going to give to you.”
ESPN's Dave McMenamin reported that a team source revealed Smith’s suspension stemmed from a team-related issue, rather than an off-court incident, and that the suspension will cost Smith $94,897.
It’s not the first time the 32-year-old has been suspended. While playing for the Denver Nuggets in 2006, he was banned for 10 games for his involvement in a brawl that erupted during a game against the New York Knicks.
A year later, he missed three games for a nightclub incident. He was also banned for four and five games in the two following season for throwing an elbow and for violating the NBA's anti-drug program, respectively.
Three years ago, he was banned for two games for another on-court incident.
Lue, however, added that Smith is expected to return to practice on Friday and will be in the Cavs’ line-up for their game against the Nuggets on Saturday.
News of Smith’s suspension, however, will again cast doubts over the harmony within the Cavs’ locker room, just when the 2016 NBA champions looked to be putting things together.
Last summer, internal strife led to Kyrie Irving being shipped to Boston in exchange for a package including Isaiah Thomas. The latter, however, lasted only a couple of months in Ohio, before the Cavs traded him, Channing Frye and a 2018 first-round draft pick to the Los Angeles Lakers in exchange for Jordan Clarkson and Larry Nance Jr.
Meanwhile, Smith, who was instrumental as the Cavs clinched their maiden NBA title in 2016, said he was happy to accept a bench role if that meant helping the team. His stance was in stark contrast with his position in the summer, when he was reportedly unhappy at being benched in favor of Dwyane Wade.
The latter, who arrived in the offseason from the Chicago Bulls, was initially picked ahead of the 14-season veteran in the shooting guard role but was traded to the Miami Heat last month.
Smith, who has started 56 of the Cavs’ 59 games this season, is currently averaging 8.3 points per game in 29.3 minutes this season, his lowest scoring average since his second season in the NBA and the lowest per-36 minutes scoring figure of his career.
Without him, the Cavs lost 108-97 at home against the 76ers but remained third in the Eastern Conference with a 36-25 record.