J.R. Smith’s professional and personal life was drastically changed when he went from New York Knicks shooting guard to Cleveland Cavaliers shooting guard after a blockbuster trade went down this season. Smith now finds himself on the verge of his first NBA Finals appearance alongside LeBron James.
Smith wrote an introspective which was published on The Cauldron on his journey from ‘worst to first’ and the experience of being traded. One of his emphases was parting ways with Carmelo Anthony, who Smith had played with his entire NBA career.
Cleveland fans care much more about what’s happening on the court, even though I do still get the daunting question, “Who do I like playing better with: Melo or LeBron?”
They are different people, different players, with different supporting casts, in different situations.
Carmelo Anthony is not LeBron James. And LeBron James is not Carmelo Anthony. Period.
At his core, Carmelo is a scorer and he always will be. While some insist on framing that as a negative, the simple fact is that ‘Melo is one of the greatest to ever do it.’ It’s funny, but I don’t hear anyone bashing Kevin Durant for being a scorer first. Sure, I may be biased, but when it comes to ‘Melo, I rarely hear any of the “so-called” experts mentioning that he has never had the cast around him that LeBron, Kobe Bryant or some of the other elite-level talents have had at their sides when they won their titles. Instead, it seems like he’s always the one to blame when things go wrong.
It’s no surprise that Smith would come to Melo’s defense, especially given that we know his appreciation for one’s ability to score the basketball. But it is nice to hear him take an honest stance on the matter.
Playing with LeBron is different in the way he demands nothing less than the best of his teammates, and doesn’t have to have an individual focus on scoring to maximize his impact.
He expects us to be accountable, and doesn’t hesitate to make plays that ensure that we do well before he does. LeBron is both willing and able to carry the load. From the very first time you meet the man, it’s crystal clear to you that he is very much aware of what he needs to do to get the most out of his teammates. LeBron sacrifices his own scoring stats to grab every rebound, to make every smart pass, to defend every possession — all in the name of winning. And despite what might be said in the media, I can tell you honestly that for both LeBron and ‘Melo, winning is the only thing that matters.
As I made reference to in my bashing of Jared Dudley recently criticizing Carmelo Anthony, it was instantly clear that LeBron would be making better use of J.R. Smith’s services than Carmelo ever could, simply because of his nature and playing style. This now becomes an easy knock on Carmelo as a team player, leader, and so forth, but Smith definitely made accurate points to defend his former teammate.