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JR Smith says daughter, born 5 months early, 'front of my mind all the time'

CHICAGO -- JR Smith doesn't want to compartmentalize. That might work for other athletes going through a difficult stretch in their personal lives, but Smith says he never wants to let his newborn daughter get too far from his thoughts.

"I'll be happy when I can bring her home, but until then, it's something I want to keep in the front of my mind all the time," Smith told ESPN of his 3-month-old daughter, Dakota, who is still in a Cleveland-area hospital after being born five months premature in January.

"I talk to my wife about it. Just keep having conversations about it," Smith said. "It's pretty much the only thing that relieves some of the pressure."

After the Cleveland Cavaliers' blowout loss to the San Antonio Spurs on Monday, coach Tyronn Lue shed some light on how much the situation with his daughter had been weighing on Smith.

"It's gotta be tough on him," Lue said. "I just got to keep talking to him, tell him he doesn't have to press. We're behind him 100 percent. His daughter is in our thoughts and our prayers. Basketball is our life, but it's not the only life that you have. He's gotta understand that. He's just gotta stay up and stay positive."

In addition to the situation with his daughter, Smith missed three months of the season with a broken thumb. He has been noticeably rusty in the 11 games he has been back, averaging just 6.8 points on 31 percent shooting.

Losing Smith put extra pressure on Kyrie Irving and LeBron James as far as playmaking in the Cavs' offense. It also put him behind in terms of conditioning and finding a rhythm.

But in some ways, all that time away from the team was a blessing.

"Had I not have gotten hurt, I wouldn't have been able to spend as much time with her as I have," Smith said. "It's kind of worked out for the best."

When he's home in Cleveland, Smith and his wife, Jewel Harris, visit their daughter in the hospital every day. Smith says Dakota is doing well, she's up to 3 pounds now and doctors tell him they are optimistic.

"She's developing everything on time. Right now we're just waiting for her lungs to fully develop. Hopefully after that she'll be good," he said. "They have a good outlook, but they also say it can go either way. But they seem happy about it."

Last week on the Smith family's personal website, Harris wrote that Dakota's breathing tube taken out and she was able to hold her without any tubes attached to her for the first time.

"I mean I was beyond excited to hold our 2lb 13oz miracle in the palm of my hands for the very first time," Harris wrote. "What some mothers get to experience within the first 2 minutes of giving birth I had to wait 78 days but, what I will say is it was worth the wait because those very feelings, emotions and joy that took over my body trumps it all. I kissed her little cheeks, smelled her neck, gazed into her eyes and just smiled at life...this life...her life that has now become our life! To God Be The Glory...I thank you."