CLEVELAND -- Before J.R. Smith made his forgettable debut Wednesday for the Cleveland Cavaliers in their 105-93 loss to the Houston Rockets, the shooting guard vowed to do exactly what his playing position suggests when asked how he plans to adjust to his new team.
"Worse come to worse ... my motto is, 'When in doubt, shoot the ball,'" Smith said before going 0-for-5 in 18 minutes off the bench against the Rockets, albeit with two of his shots better described as heaves to beat the clock. "So when in doubt, I'm going to shoot it, and hopefully that don't catch nobody off guard."
Smith had a smile on his face when he said it, poking fun at his rate of one shot attempt every 2.5 minutes played with the New York Knicks this season.
But the Cavs' brass seemed serious in its belief in the NBA's Sixth Man of the Year Award winner from 2012-13.
Cleveland coach David Blatt had dinner with the newly acquired Smith as well as Iman Shumpert on Tuesday night at Red, the Steakhouse in downtown Cleveland and came away impressed with the pair.
"For me, he's a new and welcomed player on our team," Blatt said of Smith. "I have no preconceived or pre-existing opinion, and I have no doubts about his ability to help us as a basketball player. I had a discussion with him. I can tell you that it was a good and open discussion -- short and to the point."
As for Shumpert, out for the next two to three weeks with a dislocated left shoulder, Blatt called him a "willing defender." Blatt added, "He's a guy that if you say, 'Hey, go stop that guy today,' or 'Today, this guy is your job and tomorrow it may be somebody even better,' he's willing and up to that task."
Cavs general manager David Griffin found himself defending Smith's character when asked about bringing in a player with such a spotty off-court history into the Cavs organization.
"There's always concern when you're adding any piece to your locker room, let alone a piece that, let's call it 'volatile' in his career," Griffin said. "One of the things that we heard from everybody -- players that played with him, coaches that coached him: His issues have never been as a teammate. He competes and his teammates like him because he lays in on the line for him. That's not been his issue.
"Does he take too many shots sometimes in the wrong places? Absolutely. A lot of players do that and have done that. But J.R. comes to battle. He competes on a consistent basis and so that was something that mattered to us. We also looked at the rest of the roster that we have, and we feel like from a human standpoint, J.R. is ready to take the next step, and I think everybody including J.R. would tell you this is a place he can do that.
"So, we think this is the right environment, the right fan base, the right city for him and we took it into account, but there's not a great deal of trepidation on our part now."
Smith also got a stamp of approval from LeBron James, who already had a moniker ready for his new teammate and fellow Dallas Cowboys fan, calling him "Junior" rather than J.R.
"The additions that we had the last couple days I think are going to benefit us a lot," James said. "I think J.R. is a guy who spaces the floor for us, who can create his own shot and a very athletic guy who I think he has 51 playoff games, so that definitely helps us in experience."
"Just a guy to go out there and you put him on the best offensive player and he's going to try to contain him his best way," James said. "He's very capable of doing that, and his offensive game has gotten better year after year. But I kind of see him as Jimmy Butler at some point for our team."
Unable to play, Shumpert was excused from Wednesday's game to take care of off-court details involved with his move from New York to Cleveland. He has yet to address the Cleveland media.
Smith held court with the media corps quite comfortably, however, and was well aware that his reputation preceded him, glibly saying, "I think that's just the tattoos," when a reporter described him as a "colorful" figure.
The reporter then asked Smith to describe himself in his own words.
"Somebody who loves to play, for one," Smith said. "Loves the people he's with. Very family-oriented, whether it's basketball or off the court. I won't say half the things people say about me, but that's just because they don't know me and they only see the bad things I do. They never see the good things I do. And that's fine. It is what it is. My people know where my heart is."