Many years ago, when we were playing juvie baseball, our only true contribution to the team was the ability to understand the game situation and plan for most of the possible scenarios.
Baseball moves slowly, there is time for thinking between innings, between batters, between pitches.
Some teammates, however talented, seemed to lack that mental facility, and often did inexplicable things during the heat of action.
It is easy for us to understand J.R. Smith’s failure to comprehend the situation in Game 1 of the 2018 NBA Finals.
Basketball moves at warp speed compared to baseball, so when Smith failed to realise that the score in the final seconds was tied and grabbed a rebound off a missed foul shot by a teammate and tried to kill the remaining time on the clock by dribbling away from his basket, rather than going for a winning shot, it was just a case of J.R. Smith being J.R. Smith.
Those of us who remember J.R. from his days in Denver are accustomed to seeing this sort of thing happen with disturbing frequency. Smith can shoot the ball, Smith can play defense, but when it comes to thinking, he is decidedly instinctive.
Waiting for his teammate to take his second foul shot, it would seem as though Smith could take a second to think about what might happen, but that is simply not Smith’s game.
His lack of focus may or may not have cost Cleveland the game, but the outcome may have actually been worse: It cost LeBron the game and LeBron does not like anyone other than himself to spend lost games.
It offers a microcosmic look at the delicate line an NBA coach treads.
Smith was in the game because he is exactly the sort of player who can drain a long-range bucket off a missed free throw to seal a win in the dying seconds.
On the other hand, perhaps Cleveland Coach Tyronn Lue should have had a cooler head than Smith’s in the game in that situation.
Smith is the sort, however, who might make amends in the upcoming Game 2 and start swishing threes from the car park.