INDEPENDENCE, Ohio -- There's no way LeBron James' sprained left ankle will keep him out of the Cleveland Cavaliers' regular-season opener against Kyrie Irving and the Boston Celtics -- at least according to JR Smith. "Oh, he's going to go," Smith said after practice Monday. "He's going to go, trust me on that. I don't care what he's got to do, he's going to play."
Smith's declaration of James' status was far more definitive than Cleveland coach Tyronn Lue's assessment of his superstar's chances of suiting up after James missed four of the Cavs' five preseason games with the injury.
"You know, I never hide stuff from you guys. I really don't know," Lue said, adding that James participated in Monday's practice, which featured a walk-through and shooting drills. "I mean, just depends on how he feels after today, but I really don't know."
On Tuesday, James participated in Cleveland's morning shootaround, and a team spokesman said it will be a game-time decision whether he faces the Celtics.
James is officially listed as questionable. James took some outside shots but did very little lateral movement when the media was permitted to watch the Cavs work out on Tuesday.
However, Lue did say that he is preparing the Cavs for the new-look Celtics as if James is playing. Should James sit out, Smith will start in his place, according to Lue. But, again, Smith isn't banking on that happening.
"Just because he loves the game," Smith reasoned when asked why he believes James will play after missing most of training camp. "We were talking about it. He's never missed, since he was 8 years old and he started playing, he's never missed a first game. I'm preparing for him to play."
The Cavs, meanwhile, are preparing to welcome Irving back into Quicken Loans Arena, just more than three months after he requested a trade from the three-time defending Eastern Conference champions. The team will show a tribute video as a "thank you" for Irving's six years with the team, a source tells ESPN.
Lue was asked how Cleveland fans in attendance should receive Irving, considering he hit the title-clinching shot in Game 7 of the 2016 Finals, yet asked out of Cleveland in July with two years remaining on his contract.
"We've got the best fans in the world, and they're going to do whatever they see best," Lue said. "Whatever decision they make, that's the right one. Because they've been behind us for three straight years. Since I've been here, they've always made the right decisions. So whatever they decide to do, I embrace whatever they do."
Smith said "we all were" disappointed by Irving's trade request, but that he harbored no ill feelings toward his former backcourt mate.
"He felt it was best for him, so you got to respect him," Smith said. "He was a great player when he was here. In my eyes, he was a good teammate, and he helped us win a championship, so I think it will be good." Former league MVP Derrick Rose will start at point guard for the Cavs and will be tasked with going head-to-head with Irving all night.
"Kyrie is a unique player -- a hell of a player -- but I can't get caught up into the matchups or comparing our game or our roles once I came here," Rose said. "My job is to come in, try to make this team be as best as it can possibly be."
Smith admitted it will be "extremely difficult" to defend Irving but had one theory of how the Cavs can execute on the defensive end: "We just got to put bodies in front of him. Hopefully he dribbles so much he gets tired. That's pretty much all you can do."
Of course, the Celtics -- a team that met the Cavs in the Eastern Conference finals in May -- are more than just Irving. But Smith did not seem fazed by the challenge they pose.
"I mean, they have Ky, but last year they had Isaiah [Thomas]," Smith said. "I mean, nobody really knows. People are expecting good things from [Jayson] Tatum, but he's a rookie, so I can't really go there. Al [Horford] is a pick-and-pop guy. He doesn't really roll as much. ... I think Jaylen [Brown] has obviously gotten better, so, I think they're the same ... I wouldn't say the 'same' team, because obviously there's different people in different jerseys, but, I mean, I don't really pose them as a big threat to us."
Information from The Associated Press contributed to this report.