J.R. Smith has mostly kept a low-profile since Game 1 of the 2018 NBA Finals. Smith, one of the NBA's more outgoing personalities, seemingly forgot the score against the Golden State Warriors, as he rebounded a missed free throw by teammate George Hill and ran out the clock despite the game being tied at 107.
His basketball fortunes have remained on that downward trajectory ever since. The man who once famously celebrated a championship shirtless has largely been out of the limelight since early last season. He played only 11 games for the Cleveland Cavaliers before the team decided that he was no longer part of their future. He has been out of the NBA ever since, failing to even facilitate a trade this offseason with his unique non-guaranteed contract.
But Matt Barnes and Stephen Jackson sat down with him in a revealing interview for Showtime's new series "All The Smoke" that touched on, among other things, his infamous mistake at the end of regulation in Game 1. As he revealed, his coach, Tyronn Lue, was extremely supportive.
"If it's my fault and you want to pin it on me? All right, cool," Smith said. "I hit [Tyronn Lue] that night and I was like, 'Bro, I don't even know what to say.' He was like, 'Bro, what are you talking about? You made a basketball play and it didn't work out. It happens.' "
The frustration surrounding that loss was palpable for Cleveland, though it did not appear to be directed entirely at Smith. LeBron James, for instance, revealed after the series that he suffered a self-inflicted hand injury when he punched a blackboard after the game. Smith spoke very positively about James in the interview, and James himself has never blamed Smith publicly for the play. Smith doesn't seem to blame himself either. As he explained, he got over the mistake quickly.
"I laughed about that s--- that night … I'm not a person to hold on to s---. I'm not going to hold on to no grudges," Smith said. "I'll never forget it but players f--- up, it just so happened that mine was in the Finals. … We've all messed up."
Ultimately, Smith is an NBA champion, and the Cavaliers probably weren't going to win that series either way. Even if Smith had tried to score, there is no guarantee that he would have succeeded anyway. As far as famous mistakes go, the impact of this one was fairly minimal in both the grand scheme of things and Smith's own legacy. If anything, that perspective will probably help him make it back into the NBA. Shooters need to have short memories, especially streaky ones like Smith. If Smith can get over such a public error, he isn't likely to let a few misses impact his confidence during a game.
The entire interview, which served as the first episode of Showtime's new video podcast "All The Smoke" can be seen in its entirety here.