Guys, I really don’t think LeBron James wants to answer for J.R. Smith.
After James willed the Cleveland Cavaliers to what should have been a win against the Golden State Warriors in Game 1 of the NBA Finals, half of the questions he fielded from the media afterwards concerned teammate J.R. Smith’s mind-boggling decision to dribble out the end of regulation upon grabbing an offensive rebound in a tie game, including the final five from ESPN’s Mark Schwarz.
Let’s just say LeBron wasn’t having it.
The exchange between LeBron James and ESPN’s Mark Schwarz
Here it is, word for word:
Schwarz: “From listening to everybody’s reaction to the play at the end with J.R. getting the rebound, there is still confusion whether J.R. thought the game was tied or whether he thought you guys were ahead. From where you stood on the court and from talking to him after the play, what’s your reaction to it? What is your version?”
James: “What do you mean what’s my version?”
Schwarz: “Well, did he think the game was tied or did he think you guys had it salted away?”
James: “How do I know that?”
Schwarz: “Or did you discuss it at all with him at the end of the play?”
James: “No, they asked me if I talked to J.R. about it. I said no already. I knew it was a tie game. We were down one. George Hill went up, he made the first one. We got the offensive rebound, you know, I thought we were all aware of what was going on. That’s my view. So, I don’t know what J.R. was thinking. I don’t know the question you’re trying to ask.”
Schwarz: “I was just trying to see if you knew exactly what his state of mind was. Did he think that you guys had it won, or did you think he was trying to make a play?”
James: [Shakes head.] “No.”
Schwarz: “Not sure?”
James: “What do you mean I’m not sure? No, I don’t know his state of mind.”
Schwarz: “Did you know if he knew the score?”
That was the final straw for James, who stood up from the podium, put on his sunglasses, grabbed his leather travel bag and walked out of the press conference in his suit. It would have been dramatic, had the fact that his suit featured a pair of shorts and knee-high socks not lightened the moment.
‘Be better tomorrow’
To be fair to Schwarz, there was some confusion as to whether Smith knew the score when he grabbed Hill’s missed free throw with four seconds remaining. Smith told reporters he knew the game was tied and was expecting Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue to call a timeout. Except, Lue told the media he spoke to Smith afterwards, and the shooting guard told him he thought the Cavaliers were leading by one.
You can understand James’ frustration, considering he became the first player ever to score 50 points in a Finals game and lose. (He finished with 51 on 19-of-32 shooting with eight rebounds and assists.)
James wasn’t done with Schwarz. Sports Illustrated’s angle of the awkward press conference finish followed the Cavaliers star out of the room, where before leaving he added, “Be better tomorrow.”
LeBron walks off the podium after an exchange with a reporter about JR Smith, tells him to “be better tomorrow” pic.twitter.com/Fq8wezSuFT
— Sports Illustrated (@SInow) June 1, 2018
Considering James had already addressed Smith’s gaffe earlier in the press conference, telling reporters, “I don’t give up on any of my players, any of my teammates, so I don’t think that even needs to be said,” the second go-round was probably unnecessary, especially since he had already said that Smith didn’t say anything to the team about his state of mind at the start of his media availability.
But if Schwarz’s intention was to see James storm off in a huff with a short suit, he nailed it.
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