Cleveland's passion rubbing off on Cavs guard J.R. Smith
INDEPENDENCE, Ohio (AP) Like one of his 3-pointers, Cavaliers guard J.R. Smith has fallen for Cleveland.
Smith, whose outside shooting and tenacious defense have helped the Cavs sweep their first two series in this year's playoffs, admires the way Cleveland fans stick with their teams - win or lose. The city has waited since 1964 for the Browns, Indians or Cavaliers to win a championship, but Smith said his interactions around town have been all positive.
While the Cavs were waiting more than a week for an opponent in the Eastern Conference finals, Smith attended a comedy show where Clevelanders told him they have his back.
''Everybody came up to me like, `Hey, man, don't worry about it. Just stay locked in. Everything will come full circle. It's been `X' amount of years, don't worry about it. Just play,''' Smith said Tuesday following shootaround as the Cavs prepared to host the Toronto Raptors in Game 1.
''You would think it's so much pressure on us for being a team who hasn't won in `X' amount of years, but everybody, they're happy with what's going on. Of course, they want a championship, but it's never like, `You guys have to get it done.' It's always, `We'll root for you guys. Keep going. Keep pushing.' I admire that.''
Smith said the attitude of Cleveland's fans is very different from what he experienced while playing for the Knicks.
''When I was in New York,'' he said. ''There was a lot of desperation. `You guys got to do it. You got to do it. You got to do it.' For a city who hasn't won in so long and hasn't had successful teams, everybody's very optimistic and everybody's cool, down to earth.''
Smith has become a favorite for Cleveland fans, who have embraced his care-free attitude and defensive drive. He appreciates them as well.
''More than anything, they love their team,'' Smith said. ''They understand that everything is a process. You got to respect that, people who understand and respect what your process is, what your goals are. They understand that it's not going to be done overnight, but they understand that there's a plan in place to be able to get it done.''