Cavaliers' J.R. Smith out until mid-to-late March after thumb surgery
The team announced he has a 12-to-14 week timetable to return
The Cleveland Cavaliers will be without guard J.R. Smith until mid-to-late March, the team announced on Friday. Smith had surgery to repair a fractured right thumb in the morning, and he is expected to be out of the lineup for 12 to 14 weeks.
In the meantime, the Cavaliers' depth will be challenged -- they will count on Iman Shumpert remaining consistent, and there will be more playing time available for guys like DeAndre Liggins, Mike Dunleavy and James Jones. The Cavs could use another two-way wing player, but it sounds like their No. 1 priority is still finding a backup point guard. Cleveland coach Tyronn Lue said Wednesday that he told general manager David Griffin to "take his time" because "we don't want to just settle for any point guard," via the Associated Press' Tom Withers.
Smith has struggled this season, shooting just 33.7 percent and 36.2 percent from the 3-point line, down from 41.5 percent and 40 percent last season. Given how much talent the Cavs have on their roster, losing Smith shouldn't affect their standing as the best team in the Eastern Conference. His absence will be felt, though, as Lue has to make decisions about how much to use Shumpert, when to go to Liggins for defense and when to try Dunleavy or Jones for floor spacing.
If there is a silver lining here, it's that this could help some of those other wing players get more comfortable on the court between now and the end of the season. Regardless, Cleveland has to hope that Smith will be able to find his rhythm quickly upon his return. He was a significant part of the Cavs' championship run, and they'll need him to be at his best when it matters most.
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